September in Italy is one of those “in between” months when the warmth begins to subside and we scroll through pictures to reminisce about our summer trip to the sea. Culinarily, for me, it is also a time of slow transition from the bright tones of summer to the heartier flavors of soon-to-be autumn. The dish that ushers in this change includes some of the last summer chilis and bitter but crisp bietole (chard in English) from the garden, which complement the sweetness of the fresh Tuscan sausage from my local butcher. You can use fresh or jarred chilis depending on your preferred spice level. Or you can omit them altogether and serve some chilis on the side, so that everyone can have their preferred last pop of summer heat.
500g mezza rigatoni or dried pasta of your choice
250g sausage, removed from the casings
1 bunch of bietole (chard)
1 small red onion, julienned
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
100ml dry white wine
50g extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh diced chili or 1 tsp jarred Calabrian chili
Pecorino Romano for grating
Juice of 1 lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt to the salinity of the sea (about 10g). Add pasta to the water and cook according to the time indicated on the package.
Bring a large sauté pan to medium heat. Smash the sausage into flat disks and place in the hot pan until browned, about 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side. When both sides have good color, break the sausage into smaller pieces and stir until no longer raw but not fully cooked, about one minute. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
Add half of the olive oil and onions to the pan and stir until translucent. Push the onions to one side of the pan and add the garlic to the other side, cooking until lightly browned. Mix the onions and garlic together and then add the bietole. Stir until slightly wilted. Add the white wine and stir, paying attention to scrape up any good flavor left from the sausage on the bottom of the pan. Cover with a lid and bring the heat to low, cooking for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid, season with salt and pepper to taste, and return the sausage to the pan.
When the pasta is ready, remove from the water and add directly to the sauté pan, stirring together the bietole and sausage. Add the remainder of the olive oil, stir again, and add the lemon juice just before serving on a platter or individual plates. Finish with fresh grated Pecorino Romano.