Pasta with Sausage, Sage Butter and Parmesan


A couple weeks ago I featured a pasta dish with some of the fresh herbs I’m growing. One I didn’t use then was sage. Having not done a lot with sage other than almost burn the house down during my first attempt at making a sage brown butter sauce, lessons were learned and I was now ready to ease back into that sage/butter combination, but with a lot less butter.

Initially a bit concerned with the amount of sage in this recipe, there was no need to be. In fact, the quantity I include below could even be increased if you’d like. Using a modest amount of butter adds to the creaminess of the finished dish, but doesn’t make it overly rich. The addition of the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a comfort food factor, with no heaviness.

Fresh greens, either from your garden or the farmers’ market, dressed with homemade vinaigrette, would be a wonderful first course. Enjoy!

Pasta with Sausage, Sage Butter, and Parmesan

Adapted from this Mark Bittman recipe

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces pasta, such as ziti or penne, preferably whole wheat

3 to 4 ounces Italian sausage, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s Sausage-less Italian, one link)

2 tablespoons butter

About 20-30 small to medium fresh sage leaves

½ cup or more freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Zest of half a lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; generously salt it. Cook pasta until it is tender, but not quite done.

While pasta water heats, brown sausage in a small pan until done. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta over medium heat. Add butter and sage leaves. Cook until butter turns nut-brown and sage shrivels, then turn heat down to low.

When the pasta is just about done, scoop out about ½ cup of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta. Immediately add it to the butter-sage mixture, stir in the sausage, and raise heat to medium. Add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water and the lemon juice; stir. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until some of the water is absorbed and the pasta is al dente.

Stir in cheese and lemon zest; the sauce will become creamy. Thin it with a little more reserved pasta water if necessary. Season liberally with salt & pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with more cheese if you’d like.

Lemon Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

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Whenever I see a photo or recipe for stuffed pasta shells, I think of my late Great Aunt Betty. Betty was my grandma’s youngest sister and lived in the far-off land of Los Angeles with her husband and kids. We took a family road-trip to visit them the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, along the way camping in the mountains of Wyoming, a hotel night in Las Vegas, and on the return trip home, driving through California’s wine country and a stop in San Francisco, a city that stole my young heart.

In LA, we stayed with Aunt Betty and Uncle Tom and they and my cousins took us unsophisticated Midwesterners sightseeing to the worldly locales of Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, Tijuana, Universal Studios, and beautiful sandy California beaches. But the best memories from that trip aren’t the roller coasters, bargaining at Mexican market stands, movie sets, or the Pacific Ocean. Me being me, aside from getting to spend time with extended family, the best memories are of the food Aunt Betty made. Specifically her stuffed pasta shells and Napoleons. This 14-year-old was uber impressed with both and we got the recipes so Mom could make them back home. The wonderful flavors are forever imbedded in my mind.

Recently  I saw a recipe for stuffed pasta shells on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks, and thought back to Aunt Betty and her recipe. It wasn’t vegetarian, so maybe Heidi’s version could take its place? Yes, indeed!
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I’ve been cooking with whole wheat pasta almost exclusively for years, but have yet to find a source for whole wheat or whole grain jumbo pasta shells, even after searching ginormous supermarkets, my co-op, and online. Ultimately I opted for a package of unique (non-whole wheat) lumache giganti found in the Italian section at said ginormous supermarket. In retrospect, regular jumbo shells would have been better vehicles for stuffing, but I love the way these “snail” shells cook to a perfect al dente that held its toothsome bite even after baking.

To Heidi’s quick and simple tomato sauce I added some dried herbs for a little more depth and also sautéed some onion and spinach to include in the filling. Both Pete and I had to really hold ourselves back from eating till our bellies burst. A stuffed shells recipe that even outdoes Great Aunt Betty’s. Next time I might tackle Napoleons! Enjoy!
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Lemon Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks Stuffed Shells

 

Zest of one lemon, divided

Sauce:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more if you like lots of heat

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 28-ounce and 1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find them)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried marjoram

Filling:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ large yellow onion, chopped

3-4 big handfuls fresh spinach, chopped

1 15 or 16 ounce container good quality ricotta cheese

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup grated mozzarella

Additional:
About 25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells or lumache giganti (if you can find them)

½ cup freshly grated parmesan

A couple tablespoons sliced scallions, green part only

Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and sprinkle half the lemon zest over the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook only about 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes, oregano and marjoram and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, in a medium sauté pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped spinach and cook several more minutes until spinach is wilted and soft. Set aside to cool a bit.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the ricotta and salt and mix to combine. Stir in the mozzarella and remaining lemon zest, followed by the onion-spinach mixture. Set aside.

Cook the shells according to package instructions the boiling, salted water until barely al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle.

Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the parmesan, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with sliced scallions. Serve hot.

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms & Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms & Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms & Brussels Sprouts

Supper tonight was a delicious and relatively quick (less than an hour from start to finish) dish incorporating a few farmers market and grocery store finds I wanted to use up before we head to the cabin later this week for a fall trip to paradise. You could vary the roasted vegetables to what you have on hand or to your liking too—carrots, golden beets, onion, all would be good.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms

You can’t go wrong with the Brussels sprouts, portabella & hen of the woods mushrooms, along with cauliflower I had on hand. I was going to roast all and do a pasta with an olive oil sauce, but then I thought of doing a cauliflower Alfredo. Similar in taste to traditional Alfredo, but dairy-free, with cauliflower being the main ingredient. I think I’ve eaten traditional Alfredo sauce once in my life and with it being way too rich for my liking, never again. Plus, it feels like my arteries are clogging just reading the ingredients. This version is just as flavorful and extremely healthy.

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo

Both Brussels sprouts and mushrooms rise to new culinary heights when roasted and are perfect with the creamy sauce and whole wheat pasta. It’s comfort food that satisfies without the guilt. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms & Brussels Sprouts

½ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved, if large

½ pound assorted mushrooms (I used hen of the woods and portabella), cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small head cauliflower

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cup milk of choice (I used almond)

½ cup nutritional yeast

Juice of one lemon

1 pound whole wheat (or gluten-free) pasta (elbows, fusilli, penne), prepared in salted water, according to package directions, drained and returned to pot to keep warm

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large baking sheet, place cut side down. Put mushrooms in same bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper, to taste. Transfer mushrooms to baking sheet along with the Brussels sprouts. Spread out so as not to crowd the vegetables. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are tender. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, remove leaves and core from head of cauliflower and roughly chop into like sized pieces. In batches, process in food processor until the consistency of rice. Put cauliflower “rice,” along with minced garlic, in a microwave safe, non-plastic container and microwave uncovered for 8 minutes, until cooked.

Transfer cauliflower-garlic mixture to a food processor or blender. Add milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt & pepper and process/blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Transfer sauce to a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until warm.

Mix warm roasted veggies into cooked pasta and toss. Then toss with most or all of the cauliflower Alfredo sauce. Serve in pasta bowls, garnished with chopped parsley, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.

Arrabiata Sauce with Pasta

Arrabbiata sauce and pasta
My house still smells of Italy! The aromas of garlic, olive oil, red pepper, and tomatoes floated from my kitchen as the sauce cooked and spread through every room. This Belgian-French-Irish girl actually feels Italian! And you happily will too if you make Arrabbiata sauce.

Just a few fresh ingredients come together for one of the most flavorful (and spicy) sauces in Mediterranean cooking. Roma tomatoes at the peak of freshness are easy to find at the farmers’ market, as are local garlic and flat-leaf parsley.

Roma tomatoes
Then you only need good quality extra-virgin olive oil, dried red pepper, sea salt, plus whole wheat penne (the pasta traditionally served with Arrabbiata sauce) or rotini (or use your favorite gluten-free pasta, if desired) for a dish to pair with a glass of robust red wine–a truly perfect meal (especially if you dine al fresco). And it’s so easy! Enjoy!

Garlic and red pepper

CookingJar o'sauce

Arrabiata Sauce with Pasta

2 ¼ to 2 ½ pounds ripe roma or plum tomatoes

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 large or 6 smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Dried red pepper, crushed to make 2-3 teaspoons (depending on your preferred level of heat)

1 teaspoon sea salt

Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1 pound whole wheat penne or rotini pasta, cooked al dente (or use your favorite gluten-free pasta)

Wash tomatoes and, using a sharp knife, score each with an X just through the skin. Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Transfer to ice water to stop the cooking for about 30 seconds. Drain and peel the tomatoes from where the skin curls back at the X. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, breaking up tomatoes as they cook and the sauce reduces. For a chunky sauce, crush the tomatoes with a spoon or potato masher. If you’d like a smoother sauce, remove from heat and process with an immersion blender until smooth.

Serve in bowls over al dente pasta. Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley. Makes about six main dish servings. Cin cin!