One of my favorite things about traveling is when you think you've got a place figured out and it totally surprises you. I thought I had the Santa Ynez wine region figured out until my recent trip. Unlike Napa, Sonoma, or France, Santa Barbara’s wine country is more laidback — one part outdoors-y, a bit Central Coast ranching, and a big pinch of chic.
And nothing proves that more than the teeny town of Santa Ynez. Santa Ynez's downtown looks like it's a freeze frame from an old Western movie with old time-y facades but then has gems like local boutiques and restaurants like SY Kitchen. On this trip SY Kitchen stole my heart for its great hospitality and its local, easy-going, but elegant food like this Fusillia alla Salsiccia. Nothing more than handmade pasta with a great sauce, some spicy sausage, and a smoked cheese, this was a dish we couldn't stop raving about. I did my best to recreate it here but, let's be honest, you're going to want to travel there yourself to get the real deal!
or smoked Ricotta Salata or smoked Mozzarella or Scamorza, finely grated
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent. Remove the casing on the sausage, and crumble into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the sausage, until golden brown. Add red wine, and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits.
Add garlic, rosemary or sage, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and tomatoes then cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes short of the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water then drain the pasta.
Discard rosemary or sage and, if needed, stir in reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted. Serve immediately topped with cheese.
Smoked Ricotta Salata can be really hard to find unless you have a local cheese store that's obsessed with it. If you can't find it, go ahead and use another smoked Italian cheese or use regular Ricotta Salata.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp
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