sausage

Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Lately, there hasn'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.

Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Sausage and peppers - a classic combo, right? However, roasted peppers are not on the list of preferred vegetables for my kids. Now, I'm not a fan of "hiding" vegetables in kid-friendly foods, but, this sauce is a common preparation, so I don't feel like I'm "cheating."

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Sausage and chicken jambalaya

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Before delving into the process of making jambalaya, I felt it is necessary to take a moment to say a few words about the green bell pepper. There aren't many food items that I dislike. In fact, I actually enjoy some foods that might be "weird" or "funky" or have a "challenging" texture to them. However, one of the things I actually dislike eating is the green bell pepper. I enjoy all other bell peppers: red, yellow, orange. I'm a big fan of the poblano pepper, as well, in case you may think I'm unfairly targeting the green family of peppers. Even though I dislike green bell peppers, it's an ingredient that's integral to making jambalaya. Why? Because it's part of the trinity.

Sausage and chicken jambalaya

Baked pasta with sausage, eggplant and ricotta

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Who doesn't love a good ol' baked pasta dish? Pasta combined with sauce, covered with cheese and baked until it's golden-brown and bubbly is a crowd-pleaser. It's a versatile dish. You can add meat or not. You can vegetables or not. However, you can have a delicious baked pasta dish or a pedestrian baked pasta dish that's not much better than throwing a frozen dinner, depending on how you put together your ingredients. It can turn out watery and flavorless if you don't take the time to season your ingredients and bring out the maximum amount of flavor. This is not to say that it will take a long time. You can quickly put together a delicious sauce without having to resort to that jar in your cupboard. Do I have a jar of sauce in my cupboard? Of course I do! But I have many more cans of whole, peeled tomatoes than I do jarred pasta sauce. You can make a quick sauce with that can of tomatoes that will taste much better than the jar and it won't take much time at all.

Baked pasta with sausage, eggplant and ricotta

Pasta with sausage, zucchini and tomatoes

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This is a pasta dish I used to make all the time. A fixture in the weekly rotation. It sort of lost its spot in the rotation when the kids showed up, however. Those picky kiddo-types just don't like to eat stuff that's all mixed together with bits of this & that, green stuff, red stuff...you get the picture. I still made it on occasion but the kids would usually just eat the pasta and maybe some sausage. But they're a bit older and have been a bit more adventurous lately so I gave it another shot. Also, I went with whole grain pasta, so if they just ate mostly pasta, that would be alright.

Pasta with sausage, zucchini and tomatoes

Roasted sausage, potatoes and peppers

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I love to cook stuff on sheet trays in the oven. I love the concentrated, caramelized flavors that come out of a piping hot oven. I love that there are no pots and pans to wash. I love it when I line a tray with foil and all I have to do is pull the foil off and throw it away.

There are two things to remember when you make this kind of meal on a weeknight. The first thing is to have a really hot oven. If you're in the 300s, it's just not hot enough. I like to roast at 450°. The second thing to remember is to cut your ingredients thinly and uniformly. That way, the food will be cooked through as well as caramelized. On a tuesday night when you get home from work, you don't have time to roast anything nice and slow for an hour or more. 

Roasted sausage, potatoes and peppers

Weeknight Paella

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Paella is a dish that often evokes a sense of celebration. It's traditionally made for gatherings and celebrations. I'm definitely breaking from tradition here and walking the fine line of authenticity; therefore, I'm hesitant to actually call my dish paella. For one thing, I'm not even cooking it in a proper pan. The name of the flat-bottomed pan that is used to make paella is also called paella. My paella pan is big enough for 8. Not a good fit for Wednesday night. So, I've opted for a more utilitarian saute pan.

Weeknight Paella