Friday, March 5, 2010

When sausage & pasta collide on your plate

By Helen Klein

There are times when the troops are tired of the same old foods.
Favorite dishes are all very well, but they would truly like something new, please, something original, something they haven’t had before.

Anyone who cooks regularly for a family has likely faced the same scenario. You finish work, tired, and are ready to whip together a tried-and-true dish, only to be confronted by objections.

If you don’t have time to browse the cookbooks on your shelf, or Internet resources, you will find yourself thrown back upon your own ingenuity, and believe me, with a little confidence, that is more than enough.

Recently, I faced the dinner hour with a dilemma. My husband wanted a pork chop; none of the rest of us particularly likes pork chops, but we all like pasta, something my husband is not particularly fond of, especially as a main course.

But, what kind of pasta? Not a tomato sauce – too ordinary – and not tossed with garlic and hot pepper, glistening with olive oil – another standby.

I had, of course, a crisper drawer full of vegetables, but I wanted something more, something meaty, to give the finished dish substance, something warming that would be especially satisfying on a cold winter night, with assertive flavors and eye appeal, yet something that would be doable in a limited amount of time.

It was about then that I pulled a couple of hot Italian sausages out of the freezer., and grabbed a can of chickpeas off the pantry shelf.

The resulting dish was a sprightly combination of chunked sausage, chickpeas and multi-colored vegetables, all tossed with whole-wheat penne. The flavor was sweet yet spicy, the texture a toothsome counterpoint, crunchy yet unctuous.

There were leftovers from dinner, partly because I made a lot. But, they didn’t last long. By the next afternoon, the container that had held them was in the sink awaiting washing, and I had another recipe to add to my file, knowing, full well, that it would be enthusiastically greeted by the hungry horde, at least until I made it once too often.

Pasta with Sausage and Vegetables


½ pound whole wheat penne
2 Tbl. olive oil
½ medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow pepper, seeded, cored and coarsely chopped
1 large stalk broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets, with the main stalk cut into ¼ inch thick discs
2 hot Italian sausages, cut into chunks 8 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 tsp. oregano
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup canned chickpeas
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish


Set water to boil for pasta. When water is boiling, add a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, and the pasta, stirring to prevent the pieces from clumping. Cook till al dente, strain and set aside, coated with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.

Heat the olive oil in large skillet over a medium-high flame. Sautė the onion in the oil till golden and translucent. Add the pepper and continue sautėing until crisp tender. Add broccoli and continue to sautė until broccoli is bright green and crisp tender. As necessary, add a splash or two of water to the pan to prevent the vegetables from burning.

Remove broccoli from pan and set aside. Add chopped sausages to pan and continue sautėing, tossing occasionally, until they have browned lightly on the outside.

Add mushrooms, garlic and tomato, and cook until mushrooms are tender and have rendered their juices.

Add chickpeas, oregano and white wine, plus salt and pepper to taste, and cook, covered, till flavors have combined, 15 to 20 minutes.

Return broccoli to the pan and heat through. Add the pasta and toss. Adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves four.


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