Lately, there haven't been many pasta dinners on the menu at our household. As much as I like to eat pasta and as much as I like to cook pasta, I've been trying to lead a lower-carb lifestyle over the last six months or so. However, I do believe in moderation so when the mood struck for a satisfying dinner on a Monday night, it was time to call on a weeknight warrior ingredient to save the day — pasta.
I have a favorite lamb sausage that I love and any chance to eat it, I will find a reason. Nicely-cooked pasta tossed with crumbled sausage and a simple vegetable like peas, kale, arugula is so simple but immensely satisfying. Ideally, a vegetable that has a bit of bitterness, like arugula or dandelion greens works well paired with the richness of sausage but most people usually have a bag of peas in the freezer so that's what gets used. You can use any sausage you like.
As with all pasta dishes, there are a couple of key steps to ensure delicious results. First, make sure the cooking water is well salted. A pinch of salt is not enough! I add a handful. Literally. The water should taste salty. Secondly, don't overcook the pasta. Lastly, add the pasta to the pan with your sauce or in this case, the cooked sausage along with a bit of the cooking liquid to bring it all together. Make sure the pasta and the sauce cook in the pan together for a minute.
To finish this pasta dish, I squeezed in some fresh lemon juice in addition to a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a shower of parmesan cheese, and some chopped chives. I used chives because that's all I had. Use whatever fresh herb you have available. Next time I may add some chopped preserved lemon to the sausage mixture. Also, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper is a nice addition at the end. One of the reasons I enjoy cooking pasta is that you can tweak it any number of ways to fit your mood, your guests, or what ingredients you have on hand.
ORECCHIETTE WITH LAMB SAUSAGE AND PEAS
Ingredients: 3/4 lbs of lamb sausage - casings removed, 2 cups frozen peas, 1 lb orecchiette, 1 small diced onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 lemon, salt, pepper, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, chopped chives
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it comes to boil, be sure to season the water with plenty of salt.
- In a sauté pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom.
- Add diced onion and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until translucent.
- Add the sausage and cook while breaking up the sausage into small crumbles.
- Add the minced garlic when sausage is almost cooked through.
- Turn heat off sausage and onion mixture until the pasta and peas are ready.
- When the water is boiling, add pasta to cook. Cook according to package directions until al dente.
- When the pasta is about 3 minutes from being done, add the frozen peas to the cooking pasta.
- When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain and add to the sausage mixture. You want to have a little bit of residual cooking water as well. Don't drain til completely dry.
- Cook the pasta with sausage for about a minute.
- Squeeze in fresh lemon juice to taste as well as a good drizzle of olive oil. Finish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped chives.