1 pound gnochetti or cavatelli pasta, fresh or dried
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (3 pinches)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 pound coarsely ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can tomatoes (28 ounces), preferably San Marzano
A few leaves of basil, torn
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for passing at table
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. For dry pasta, cook to al dente; for fresh, wait until the sugo is ready before you cook the pasta, as it only takes 2-3 minutes. Salt the boiling water liberally before cooking either form of pasta.
Heat the stock and saffron over medium heat in a saucepot and reduce by about half, about 15 minutes. While the stock infuses and the water comes to boil, heat a large, deep skillet with the EVOO, a couple turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the fennel seed and toast for 1 minute. Add the meat, raise the heat to medium-high and season the meat with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the sage, red pepper flakes and paprika.
When the meat is brown, add the garlic and the onion and cook together a few minutes more to soften the onion. Add the tomatoes and crush, then bring the sauce to a bubble, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in a few leaves of torn basil.
When your pasta of choice is ready, add the infused stock to the sauce. Toss in the drained pasta and serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread and lots of Pecorino Romano cheese.