There’s something relaxing about visiting a farm, seeing the green grassy fields and animals roaming freely and, what I imagine, happily.
Even on the overcast day that I found myself at Napa Grass Farmer, there was a simplicity that we urban-9-to-5ers always wish for because, well, the pasture is always greener on the other side.
I met with the man behind Napa Grass Farmer, founder John Costanzo, who looks a bit like an urban farmer himself with his stylish coat and wool beret. A man who strikes me as the curious type, Costanzo started Napa Grass Farmer — touted as a “better-than-organic” natural farm — after studying animal embryos and how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) affected pregnant women. That led to his studying of the food chain and the realization that creating healthy and natural food needs to start with small farmers trying to change the U.S. agricultural system.
Napa Grass Farmer sells its grass-fed raised meats through CSA-certified boxes that are delivered or picked up at the farm in Fairfield (they originally started in Napa but moved to a larger location in Fairfield), including chicken, pork, lamb and unique meats like water buffalo. I was invited to help develop recipes featuring their products for the farm’s members.
The first recipe I developed was a simple and easy weeknight dinner using Napa Grass Farmer’s Italian sausages made from the silvo-pasture pork. In all the recipes I’m developing, I’m trying to keep them simple and clean in flavor to really spotlight the natural taste of the meats, which really comes through because of the full flavors of the animals. I used a pasta called straccetti because it has a nice chew and the spirals lets the sauce cling to it, but feel free to substitute with penne or fusilli.
Here’s a gallery of photos I took during my visit to the Napa Grass Farmer. (I also threw in a few photos of their cute puppies from a recent litter, which was featured in the local news because their resident dog had a litter of 17 pups.)
Italian Sausage Straccetti
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 Italian sausage links (about 6 oz.)
1 lb. straccetti pasta (substitute with penne or fusilli)
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup white wine
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt for seasoning
Cook pasta per package instructions, drain and set aside.
In a large fry pan or skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat and then add onion and garlic with a pinch of salt, and cook until onion is translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Push onions to the side of pan and add additional olive oil if needed, then add Italian sausage after removing the casing. With wooden spoon, break down the sausage and brown. Add wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste sauce to see if you need to season with more salt or pepper.
Remove sauce from heat and stir in cheese. Now you’re ready to blend with pasta. Depending on the space in your pan, you can either pour sauce over pasta, or throw pasta into the sauce and toss to blend. (TIP: To avoid overcrowding in your pan, remove half of the sauce and then toss in half the amount of pasta to blend, then plate. Then add the other half of sauce along with pasta and repeat.)
Plate pasta and add freshly torn basil leaves and additional grated cheese.
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