Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fast and frugal cooking - pasta with greens and sausage

I have the iPhone app version of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook, and it tends to be my go-to source for everyday culinary inspiration. I love the search function because I can put in an ingredient and immediately pull up a variety of options for how to prepare it.

A couple weekends back I picked up some kale at the farmers' market.  One of the recipes the app offered me was Pasta with Greens, a variation on a main recipe for pasta with broccoli or cauliflower.  I had several boxes of pasta on hand, bought when they were recently on sale (see, frugal!), and I generally make some form of pasta once or twice per week because it's so fast. A second variation suggested adding sliced Italian sausage. I wanted to add some meat, both for flavor and because Mr. Fraser is a bit of a carnivore, so I picked up some bulk Italian sausage.

Once in the kitchen, I set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta--heavily salted and with a generous dollop of olive oil to impart some flavor to the pasta as it cooked. I chose radiatore, because the recipe recommended penne, ziti, or other cut pasta, but any shape you happened to have on hand would work, I think, including spaghetti or linguini.

While the water heated I washed my kale and roughly chopped it into long, thin strips.  Once it boiled, I added the greens (but not the pasta yet). I let the greens boil for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I browned half a pound of the Italian sausage (frugally freezing the other half of the package for a future meal) in a large saucepan.

Next I reduced the heat on the sausage, fished the greens out of the boiling water with a strainer, and added them to the saucepan, along with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. I added the pasta to the water (now slightly green) and let it cook as directed, occasionally stirring both the pasta and the sausage-greens mixture. With about a minute to go before straining the pasta, I dipped out some of its cooking water and added it to the sausage and greens to make it a bit more saucelike.

Then, I drained the pasta, tossed it with the sausage and greens, and served with parmesan cheese. Quick, easy, tasty, and reasonably frugal. I'll definitely make it again with either kale, spinach, or chard. (I like collards too, but they're slower-cooking and more strongly flavored. I doubt I'll try the broccoli or cauliflower of the main recipe because I only like those veggies raw or lightly roasted. Boiled, steamed, or baked for more than ten minutes or so and they get all mushy and bleah, for my taste.)

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