This was a delicious dish and I would definitely make it again. I followed the New York Times recipe with these exceptions (and I doubled all the proportions to make a double batch);
Instead of just water, I used half red wine that I had left over and half chicken stock; and I used a combination of sweet and spicy Italian sausage 2/3 pound sweet and 1/3 pound spicy)
1 pound Italian sausage (I used Premio sweet and spicy mixed pack)
2-3 TBS Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (I used Hunt's whole plum tomatoes in thick sauce)
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese
Ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
With the tip of a small, sharp knife, slit open the sausage casings.
Once the casings are slit open, just pull out the sausage meat and tear into pieces
Crumble the meat into a wide, heavy skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. If the meat is not rendering enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan as it begins to cook, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the meat is frying gently, not steaming.
Sauté, breaking up any large chunks, until all the meat has turned opaque (do not let it brown), about 5 minutes.
Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley and stir. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have melted in the fat and are beginning to caramelize, and the meat is toasty brown. This may take as long as 40 minutes, but be patient: It is essential to the final flavors.
After 30-40 minutes of sauteing. the vegetables are melting tender and the meat is cooked through
Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands or with the side of a spoon.
Bring to a simmer, then add thyme and rosemary and let simmer, uncovered, until thickened and pan is almost dry, 20 to 25 minutes.
Mix tomato paste with 1/2 cup red wine and 1/2 cup chicken stock (or use water).
Leftover red wine and chicken stock are added to the tomato paste
Add to pan, reduce heat to very low, and continue cooking until the ragù is velvety and dark red, and the top glistens with oil, about 10 minutes more. Remove herb sprigs. Sprinkle pecorini-romano cheese over, stir in well and taste.
Cook on low until ragù is thick and velvety.
Add cheese (if desired) stir in well and taste.
The sauce is ready for pasta!
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until just tender.
Scoop out 2 cups cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Quickly add a ladleful of ragù, a splash of cooking water, stir well and let cook 1 minute.
Several ladles of sauce and one of pasta water.
Taste for doneness.
Repeat, adding more cooking water or ragù, or both, until pasta is cooked through and seasoned to your liking.
Pour hot pasta water into a large serving bowl to heat it.
Pour out the water and pour in the pasta.
Top with remaining ragù, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
Pass grated cheese at the table, if desired.