Franks' note: This is one of our most popular dishes. It's renowned as a hangover curative among the people we work with and the 10-to-1 favorite for what a guy will order on a first date. (His date will almost always order the Sweet Potato Ravioli in Cheese Broth on page 110. It just works out that way.) Two small but important notes on this otherwise very easy recipe: the sausage must be precooked so it can be cut into coins; cutting it into coins is advantageous because sliced sausage has more surface area to brown, and browned sausage is better. Also, the sauce is browned butter. It's a stage of doneness, something we were taught in cooking school: beurre noisette. It should be visibly browned, with a hazelnut-like aroma. Don't skimp on the browning.
1 pound hot Italian pork sausage (4 to 6 links, depending on the size of the sausage)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 to 10 sage leaves (fewer if they are very large, more if they are very small)
Freshly ground white pepper
Ricotta Cavatelli (page 100)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
fine sea salt
15 turns white pepper
4 large eggs
½ cup dried bread crumbs
1. Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it well.
2. Meanwhile, put the sausages into your widest sauté pan with 1/2 inch of water and turn the heat to medium. After 10 minutes, flip the sausages over and simmer them for another 5 minutes (replenish the water if it threatens to boil off). After 15 minutes, the sausages should be firm and cooked through. Remove the sausages to a cutting board (discard the water) and slice them into coins just shy of 1/2 inch. (You can do this an hour or even a day ahead of time if you like.)
3. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. After a minute, add the sausage coins in an even layer and let them cook, untouched, unstirred, unfussed with, until they're deeply browned on the first side. (If there's not enough room to brown all the sausage in one pan—which there will very probably not be—split it between two pans or brown it in two batches and use an additional tablespoon of butter.) Flip and brown them on the B side. The browning is integral to the ultimate depth of flavor of the finished dish—don't stint on it. When the sausage is browned, remove it from the pan (a plate lined with paper towels is a nice place to hold it) and return the pan to the burner.
4. Keep the heat at medium-high and add the sage, the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, and a few twists of white pepper. Stir the butter and scrape at the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, it should stop foaming and start to take on color. That's when you should drop the ricotta cavatelli into the boiling water. Continue to cook the butter until it's deeply browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes more, which should be just about how long the cavatelli takes to cook.
5. Do not drain the cavatelli too thoroughly. The water clinging to the pasta will give the sauce body. Add it to the butter sauce along with the sausage and stir.
6. Add the cheese, stir again, and portion the cavatelli among serving plates. Scatter each with a couple of pinches of parsley. Serve immediately.
At the restaurant we bake the sausages ahead of time, but simmering the sausage, as in this recipe, is faster when you're cooking for just a few people. If you're making cavatelli for a crowd, cook a baking sheet's worth— probably 3 or 4 pounds of sausage—by lining the links up on the baking sheet, adding a good splash of water, and baking them at 350°F until they're cooked through, about 30 minutes. Slice the cooked sausages into coins