Thirty years of experimentation produced Lou Mathews’s bright, clean—but rich—spaghetti-lasagna sauce. He was finally forced to write it down when his daughter, archaeologist/anthropologist Jennifer Mathews, asked what she wanted for her PhD graduation present, said: “Your recipes.” The result is Jennifer’s Cookbook, from which this recipe is drawn.
Notes: There are no herbs (aside from the fennel in the sausage) because they interfere with the clean flavors of the peppers, onions, and tomato—the same reason that garlic and red wine are absent. Insist on San Marzano tomatoes, available at any good Italian grocery. Make sure it says “imported from Italy,” and make sure it says “San Marzano.” Chopped fresh basil may be added at the last minute. (Try it without the first time.) Goes well with any decent Chianti, better with a Pinot Noir, or a Valpolicella if you can afford it—nothing too heavy or dark.
- Cover the bottom of a large casserole pot (I use a 5½-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven) with olive oil, brown sausages over medium-high heat, about six minutes a side, remove sausage from pot, and set aside to cool. Lower heat to medium-low.
- In the same oil, sauté onions for 10 minutes, until soft but not browned, add bell pepper, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, until soft. By now the sausages should be cool—cut them in half, lengthwise, and then cut them in half-coins, about 1/4 inch wide.
- Put the sausage back in the pot once the pepper is cooked. Add wine, raise heat, and let boil two minutes. Reduce heat to low and add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and let simmer about two hours, uncovered, on lowest possible heat. Serve over spaghettini with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Lou Mathews was once a restaurant reviewer in Los Angeles for seven years and 43 pounds. He is a notorious home cook. The chile verdé recipe is his, adapted over 20 + years from his Uncle Jesús’s recipe. Jesús says only raccoons wash their food and only Mexican coke will do.