A pot of sauce for Joey.

Can that title get any more Long Island Guido? I think not. And it shouldn't.

Want to know why?

Because 'Joey' (known as Joe or Joseph to the rest of the world, but has always retained his Italian little boy nickname with me), my brother, is the quintessential Italian-American New Yorker and basks in his role as such.

He's the mayor--he knows everyone and they all like him. He embraces the New Yorkese language and makes fun of me when I pronounce 'coffee' any other way than 'cawfee'. He's the life of the party and can't conceive of a Sunday dinner that doesn't involve red sauce and pasta.

He also perfectly fits the bill of the younger brother, the same way I do as the older sister.

I'm the responsible, bossy, know-it-all. He's the fun, freewheeling, jester. That's probably why we had knock-down, drag-out fights for the first, oh, I don't know, twenty years of our lives.

Disclosure: This is not us as children. But it might as well be.

That's also why we're great friends today.

Joey and I were just starting to befriend each other when I started cooking. Don't get me wrong--we always loved each other as siblings--we just couldn't talk to each other for more than ten minutes at a stretch. I wouldn't be taking meal requests from him; he wouldn't trust anything I cooked.

This pasta dish changed all of that. This pasta scaled mountains, built bridges and gave us the strength to cross them. If you think I'm being hyperbolic, make this for someone and tell me your relationship doesn't exponentially improve.

This was the first dish Joey enthusiastically ate and requested again and again. Not because he trusted my cooking skills (that came later), but because the smells that drift throughout your house/apartment/kitchen are drool-inducing. Hypnotic. It converts even the most reluctant eater to a complete glutton.

Years later, he still asks for it and I still make it wholeheartedly (except I try to sneak in veggie sausage nowadays). What can I say?

I'm grateful to have such an amazing brother and friend (briend?), and I'm happy to make food not war.

Penne with Sausage, Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from "Giada's Italian Family Dinners"
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled (again, I use a vegetarian sausage. Field Roast makes a great Italian 'sausage'.)
12-ounce jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 cup chicken broth (I use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup dry white wine
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces penne or other tubular pasta
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon, fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed (optional)

1.) Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, continually breaking the meat into bite-sized pieces, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl lined with a paper towel.

2.) Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same skillet; then add the artichokes and garlic and saute over medium heat until garlic is tender, about 2 minutes.

3.) Add the broth, wine, diced tomatoes with juice, and sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce slightly reduces, about 8 minutes.

4.) Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dentem, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.

5.) Add the pasta, cooked sausage, Parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley to the sauce. Toss until fully combined; then stir in the mozzarella, if using. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and extra Parmesan cheese.

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