The warm weather recently has put me in the mood for al fresco dining, and there’s one recipe in particular that I have got on the brain. It brings back the feeling of sun-soaked stone on the soles of my feet, the smell of wild thyme-scented air, and the ceaseless chorus of cicadas creaking back and forth along the Tuscan hillside.
One evening in Italy a few years ago family and friends set the table against a backdrop of cypress trees and cooked up this feast together for eleven hungry people. If I could spend my entire life eating fresh, simple food under the stars by candle and firefly light, laughing with my nearest and dearest around the table like we did that night, I would.
Italian sausage bake with rosemary roast potatoes (adapt the ingredients as advised for the number of people you wish to feed):
– pork chipolatas or good quality, thick Italian sausages (three or four per person)
– one yellow pepper and one green pepper (roughly one of each for four people)
– cherry tomatoes (roughly one punnet/300g for four people)
– mushrooms (two or three per person)
– olives (roughly a cup for four people)
– garlic (roughly two cloves for four people)
– lemon (roughly one and a half for four people)
– white wine (roughly one quarter of a bottle for four people)
– olive oil (generous amounts)
– salt and pepper (to taste)
– fresh rosemary (roughly a cup for four people)
– thyme (judge this by sight – a generous sprinkling needed)
– roasting potatoes (roughly three whole potatoes per person)
Preheat the oven to a temperature of around 200ºC/400ºF and put a large pan of water on to boil.
Prepare the potatoes by cutting off any bad or excessively knobbly bits, wash them, but leave the skins on. Chop them into quarters, and boil them with salt for about 5 minutes.
Fry the sausages in a large pan with olive oil for about 5 minutes, turning them over so that they start to brown. Then arrange the potatoes in a baking tray, tossed with generous amounts of olive oil, fresh rosemary leaves roughly torn up, and seasoned with plenty of salt. Put these on to roast in the preheated oven.
Arrange the sausages in another large baking tray or glass pyrex dish and roast in the oven with the potatoes for around 10 minutes. Then take the tray with the sausages out (leave the potatoes in to continue to roast) and arrange the tomatoes (cut in half), peppers (cut into strips), mushrooms (chopped into slices or chunks), olives (sliced in half) around the sausages in the same dish. Splash it all with olive oil, sprinkle about the cloves of crushed or finely chopped garlic and some salt and pepper, thyme and lemon juice, and a few generous splashes of white wine over the whole thing, too.
Continue to cook all of this for around 20 minutes or so. Take it all out and serve when the potatoes look crispy enough and everything in the sausage dish looks like it is starting to go slightly golden. The juices will all run together and give everything a lovely, zingy taste.
It’s easy to make large amounts of this dish, and it is perfect for large candlelit al fresco gatherings, or evenings indoors dreaming of summertime. Treasure those moments; they are precious. Never forget to tell those you love that you love them with your words and your actions, as many times as you possibly can. We only get to live this glorious life once; don’t waste it.