Weekly Winner:  Keeping it Simple – Pork, Peas & Pasta

I’ve been getting a bit “fussy” lately with my cooking.  Lots of ingredients, some of them a bit hard to find or not things you normally have lying around.  I was thinking it was definitely time to dial it back and keep it simple.  That, in my opinion, is best done with two things: steaks and pasta. As it was Friday night which means a pre-run pasta dinner for hubby, I went for an old favorite:  Bucatini with Sausage and Peas.  The title just about gives you all the ingredients.  It is sensationally simple and stupidly delicious.

The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and I’ve been making this for years.  I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it here in the blog before and I also can’t believe its been so long since I’ve made it.  Lucky for me (and hubby) I made a double batch and froze half. We’ll be enjoying this stunner of a dish again soon.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Serves 6


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup frozen baby peas


1 pound bucatini or perciatelli

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons shredded basil


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  2. Partially cover the saucepan and cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream and peas and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes longer.  Season with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss over low heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.  Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the shredded basil and serve.

Weekly Winner:  A Tasty Twist on Beans & Greens

Beans and greens have been friends forever.  Combinations include: collards, escarole, spinach, kale and chard on the green team and cannellini, kidney, and pinto for the bean team.  Put them together and you’re guaranteed a healthy and generally tasty meal or side dish. However, for it to be really memorable, things needed to be switched up in this old standard.  A recipe I found in Bon Appetit did just that by changing the beans and adding pasta and sausage.  That’s a guaranteed winner in my book!

There are a couple of things that make Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta unique.  First: the shape of the pasta – paccheri – which is like rigatoni on steroids.  I’m talking huge, short tubes of pasta goodness.  Second: it trades out the standard beans for chickpeas (always a fan favorite in this house).  Finally, there’s the crumbled fried rosemary sprinkled on top.  Enough of me blabbering on — just trust me.  This dish is special.  It’s got a great combination of textures and flavors and is the perfect thing to curl up to prepare for the craziness of the holiday season.

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Serves 4


⅓ cup olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, patted dry

¼ cup dry white wine

12 ounces paccheri (large tubular) pasta

Kosher salt

8 cups (lightly packed) torn kale

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  3. Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with spoon, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage. Add wine to pot, bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
  5. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add kale and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until kale is wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Add another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add ½ cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce. Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
  6. Divide pasta among bowls. Crumble rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.

Weekly Winner:  A Peculiar Little Pasta

I honestly did not know what to expect with this pasta dish.  It was one of the few recipes that, having read it, I just couldn’t imagine what it was going to taste like.  I knew I liked everything listed in it, but could not fathom the final outcome.

Orecchiette with Sausage, Chickpeas and Mint.  Who thinks up these things?  Apparently Food and Wine Magazine does.

So when a free night arrived, I decided to whip this up.  It all seemed a tad beige to me and I happened to have some spare baby arugula in the house so I threw that in for a bit of color.  Then I read the final line of the recipe: “Dollop with yogurt”. What?!?  Why?!?  I was actually going to forgo that step.  Then I did a quick taste test with and without the yogurt.  OK, seriously, these recipe creators know what they are doing!  It was way better with the yogurt!

Granted, it may not be much to look at, but it is one tasty pasta dish.  It is oddly appealing and somewhat addicting.  It’s the type of dish you just keep going back for one more forkful.  Do try it, but definitely don’t leave out the yogurt!

Orecchiette with Sausage, Chickpeas and Mint


1 lb orecchiette

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 pound loose sweet Italian sausage

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup small mint leaves

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice



Plain yogurt, for serving


  1. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Wipe out the pot and heat the olive oil in it. Add the sausage and cook over moderate heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and nearly cooked through, 7 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, orecchiette and reserved cooking water and toss over moderate heat until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, about 2 minutes. Stir in the mint and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Dollop with yogurt.

Weekly Winner: Cobbler – It’s not just for dessert anymore

2015/01/img_1530-0.jpg I am not really a dessert person. I prefer to use vital stomach space for savory food. Not to say I’d turn down a piece of chocolate or a bowl of good ice cream, but on the whole I am all about the main course.

At the same time, I’ve always been drawn to any kind of pot pie, dumpling or biscuit dish — if it has some kind of bready, crumbly, pastry-type topping, I’m generally a fan — as long as what’s underneath is savory.

So imagine my delight when I found this recipe for Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Cobbler in Cuisine at Home Magazine. Now this is a cobbler that speaks my language!  Forget some wimpy berries or fussy stone fruit — we’re talking pork!!

I made it for our Sunday Supper and it was a total hit. It’s basically a one-pot wonder and makes an incredible homey, cosy meal that’s even company-worthy.

The dish is a great combination of sausage, beans, butternut squash and broccoli rabe all tucked up under a wonderful buttermilk-parmesan biscuit. The recipe calls it “dumplings”, but it is actually more of a biscuit which is where I’m sure they got the whole “cobbler” theme. Whatever you call it, it will be happening here for dinner …. frequently.

Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Cobbler
Serves 6

For the filling:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb link Italian sausage
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt , black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 lb), trimmed and chopped

For the dumplings (aka biscuits):
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup each yellow cornmeal and grated parmesan
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each baking soda and table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400F with rack in center position.

For the filling – heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, covered, 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool, slice sausage on the bias into 1 inch pieces. Add onions, squash, and bell peppers to skillet; cook 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; cook 1 minute.

Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up any brown bits, and reduce until nearly evaporated. Stir in beans, Italian seasoning, and sausage; season with salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Whisk together broth and cornstarch and add to skillet; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, 5 minutes. Sir in broccoli rabe.

For the dumplings, combine flour, cornmeal, parmesan, sage, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, butter and egg; stir into the flour mixture just until combined. Spoon dumplings over filling in the skillet and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of dumplings comes out clean, 30 minutes. Remove cobbler from oven; let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.


Weekly Winner: My Idea of “Going Green”

parsley pesto spaghettiI have to admit it, I’m not a terribly “eco-friendly” person.  I don’t fret over eating organic, I don’t have an electric car and I don’t lose any sleep over my “carbon footprint”.  I’m not a juicer but I do tend to eat relatively healthy and generally believe locally sourced food tastes better and is fresher which is why I choose it when I can.  So, having said that I did decide to “go green” last night — with a parsley pesto.  It was delicious.  This is a very simple, honest-tasting pasta dish from Cooking Light Magazine that comes together in no time.  And as I just discovered — sorry Kermit, but apparently it really is easy being green.

Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto and Sausage

Serves 4


8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

3 ounces spicy pork Italian sausage, casings removed

4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 ounce fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (about 1/4 cup)

5 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add pasta to pan, and cook 8 minutes or until almost al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Discard the remaining cooking liquid.
  2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add Italian sausage to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan, reserving drippings; drain on paper towels. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add pasta to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine about 2 tablespoons cheese and 4 3/4 cups parsley leaves in a food processor; process until finely ground. With motor running, add remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; process until smooth. Add parsley mixture and salt to pasta; toss well to coat. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 shallow bowls; top evenly with sausage, remaining 2 tablespoons cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup parsley leaves. Serve immediately.