Friday, August 7, 2015

Recipe Construction: Or, How Not to Put Red Sauce on Pasta ...

There are a lot of options for saucing pasta, but my "quick dinner" go-to is using marinara from a jar. 

We pause to allow the screams of horror from my Italian friends to echo fully in the vacuum caused by deigning to use something I didn't spend all Sunday tending on the stovetop.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating, I am not Italian. 

So, when tasked with making pasta "without red sauce" and remembering my husband could take or leave pesto, I found myself at a quandary.

But then the lightbulb switched on as I remembered a recipe for orichette with sausage & broccoli rabe that was lightened up by a celebrity chef ages ago on Food Network.

Broccoli rabe isn't my favorite vegetable to prepare at home (I find I need to blanch & shock it before sauteeing to leach out some of the bitterness) so I looked elsewhere in the same family to come up with ... spinach.

So, that's what I tapped into Google: pasta sausage spinach.

I read a few recipes and formulated a grocery list. All I needed to transform my lowly box of farfalle (a/k/a "bow tie" pasta) into a gourmet-inspired dish was a package of turkey sausage (casing removed, mild Italian seasoning), cheese, and spinach.

I keep garlic and olive oil on hand at all times. Pantry staples, so to speak.

While you boil the water for your pasta, break up the sausage into bite-sized pieces (should be roughly the size of apricot pits) and brown/render fat in a nonstick pan. Be sure to choose a pan with a well-fitting lid.

Scoop the sausage out with a slotted spoon & set aside. 

Drop heat to medium-low, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan with 1 clove of chopped garlic. Saute 'til garlic is fragrant (less than a minute on my stove; YMMV) and reduce heat to low. 

Add spinach (mine was in 9oz pre-washed packages; I used 2 pkgs, for 18oz), use tongs to coat in oil/sausage drippings/garlic mix at bottom of the pan. Add 1-3 Tbsp of water to the greens and cover.

While the pasta cooks, the greens should wilt. When the greens are wilted, add the sausage and 1/2 cup of shredded/grated Italian cheese (whatever you like; I used pecorino Romano.)

Cook pasta according to package directions for "al dente" or a little less. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

Drain pasta, toss with greens, sausage, reserved pasta liquid, and cheese. Sauce won't be super-thick, but it will thicken a bit on standing as the pasta absorbs some of the liquid.

While the kid turned up her nose at it, the husband ate 2 portions.

OK then.

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