- 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
- 1 cup white wine, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing the sauce
- 2 cups onions, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 1 cup zucchini, diced
- 6 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 1 branch fresh basil, with lots of leaves
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 cup Grana Padano, freshly grated, plus more for passing
Remove the sausage casings, and crumble the meat into a large bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of the wine over the meat and mix this in with your fingers, breaking up any big meat clumps, so the sausage is evenly moistened.
Pour the olive oil into the big skillet and set it over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Scatter the sliced garlic in the pan and season with the salt and peperoncino. When everything is sizzling, crumble in the sausage and stir with the onions. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup wine, raise the heat a bit and cook, stirring, as the wine cooks away and the sausage becomes all browned, about 10 minutes. Add in the diced zucchini and stir to incorporate. Pour in the tomatoes and a cup of water (which you’ve used to slosh and rinse the tomato cans and bowl). Submerge the basil branch in the liquid, cover the skillet and bring to a boil. Set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to keep the sauce bubbling steadily and cook for an hour or more, until the sauce has developed good flavor and reduced to the consistency you like for dressing pasta. Remove and discard basil branch. You can use some of the sauce right away—you’ll need half of it to dress the rigatoni—or let it cool, then refrigerate or freeze for later use.
For cooking and dressing the pasta, bring a large pot of well-salted water (at least 7 quarts water with 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt) to a rolling boil. Heat half the sausage-tomato sauce, about 4 cups, to a bare simmer in a wide skillet or sauté pan (if you’ve just made the sauce, use the same pan). If the sauce has cooled and thickened, loosen it with some of the pasta water. Add the rigatoni to the boiling water, and cook until just al dente.
Lift out the pasta in big bunches with a spider, let drain for a moment, then spill them into the simmering sauce. Over low heat, toss the rigatoni and sauce together for a minute or two, until all are coated and perfectly al dente. (Thin the sauce, if necessary, with hot pasta water or thicken it quickly over higher heat.) Turn off the heat, and sprinkle the grated cheese over the rigatoni and toss well. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss again and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.