Friday, January 14, 2011

Sausage, Artichoke and Sundried Tomato Pasta


I love pasta. I love pasta almost any way it's prepared. I've seldom met a pasta that I didn't enjoy. This pasta is a favorite of mine because it's got so much going on. It has the spice from the sausage, the freshness of the spinach, mushrooms and basil, the textures of the artichokes and the melty cheese, as well as the deep flavor of the white wine cream sauce.

This is a pasta that can have a lot of added, unnecessary fat, but I'll show you a few simple tricks to make it a bit healthier. And, because of all the ingredients, this dish does not lack flavor.

Here is what we'll need:

1 pkg. Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, sliced; reserve 1 tablespoon olive oil from jar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tray of mushrooms, sliced
2 cups of loosely packed baby spinach
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 package of fusilli pasta
8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Let's get cookin'!

First, put on a pot of water and bring to boil.

And don't make fun of my teeny dorm kitchen! I've got these three too-close-together old school coil burners. But let me tell you, we turn out some delightful delicacies here, so keep the teasing to a minimum!

Mince your garlic and chop your onions (not shown).

Next, remove the casing from the sausage, break into bite-sized pieces and brown in a large frying pan or skillet.


Once browned, pour onto a plate lined with a couple of paper towels to remove excess fat. Set aside.

Take the reserved olive oil infused with herbs from the can of sun-dried tomatoes (I like to use the Trader Joe's brand) and put into the hot skillet.

Add the minced garlic and onions and saute until fragrant and onions start to become translucent.

Next, add the mushrooms...

...and the spinach, and stir until spinach wilts.

Now add the chicken stock.

White wine gives your sauce good flavor. I prefer to use broth and wine instead of butter, as a healthier alternative. I chose this bottle of Chardonnay from Trader Joe's because of the pretty label; any dry white wine will do. Add the wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol cooks out, leaving just the flavor of the wine.

Once the water boils, add the fusilli pasta and stir occasionally until al dente. Then, drain the water and return the cooked pasta to the pot.

Add the artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to substitute other pantry items, or leave some ingredients out. The great thing about this pasta is that it's so packed with flavor and "goods" that if you don't have mushrooms or spinach, etc., you won't even hardly notice! You can improvise a bit based on what you have in your kitchen!

Simmer. Add dried oregano, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if desired). Be sure to taste as you go to make sure you've seasoned it properly. We don't want bland food!

Next, let's get ready to chiffonade! Chiffonade basically means to shred, and there's an easy way to do this that looks beautiful! Stack up your leaves of basil.

Roll them up and hold with your fingers.

Then, chop straight down, leaving you with uniformly thin strips. Easy peasy!

Add the half-and-half, which adds a nice light creaminess to the sauce. Once sauce is warmed through, add the basil and stir quickly to combine.


Now, add the "goods" to the cooked pasta, now in the pot. I love this dish because it's so colorful!

While it's all still hot, add in the cubes of mozzarella and fold mixture over so cheese can melt in pockets of the pasta. Be sure to try to distribute it evenly so there aren't big chunks of just cheese!


And, voilĂ ! Add the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan and serve. If my quantities look a little shy, it's because I made only half of the recipe, since I'm only cooking for Mitchell and me. Half of the recipe will yield enough for two portions, plus lunch the next day for one (ME)!
As the Italians say, "Buon appetito!"




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