Friday, September 14, 2012

Pasta with Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Spinach and Sage

The days are shorter; the nights, cooler. Salad days are waning. Melons are disappearing from grocery-store shelves and farm stands. It's the season of chrysanthemums, monarch butterflies, school buses and summer memories.

When I have a hectic schedule, which means eating on the run, I reach the point to where I just want a good, filling, home-cooked meal. And one that re-heats easily for leftovers. Pasta always feeds those requirements.

Here, it is summoned with Italian sausages, spinach, mushrooms and earthy sage in a velvety and garlicky sauce that nourishes the most basic of hungers. And more.

Some tips about pasta dishes: it is imperative "to taste as you go." Salt a little at a time as you go through the recipe. Many pasta dishes can be bland, even with the brightest and most savory of ingredients, without the distillation of salt. Allow the dish to rest so the pasta can absorb the flavors and to allow the starches to thicken the sauce. As such, always keep a bit of the pasta water on hand or some extra stock to add as needed.

For this recipe, I used Johnsonville Italian sausages, three hot and three mild. I ended up using all but 1/4 cup of a 14.5 ounce can of chicken stock. Add the stock gradually to give the recipe time to absorb and thicken.

  • 1 lb. (about) Italian sausages (I used six links, hot and mild)
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 3 cups lightly-packed fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 20 fresh sage leaves, rough-chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, just a pinch
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1, 14.5 oz. low-sodium chicken stock 
  • 10 oz. linguine or spaghetti 
  • 1/2 cup (or more) Reggiano Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Bring to the boil a large pot of salted water.

In a large pan, fill with water just to cover sausages. Simmer about ten minutes. Remove to cool. Add the sausage water to the pot of pasta water. When sausages are cool enough to handle, slice into pieces. Add a bit of oil to the pan and cook sausage pieces just until brown. Remove.

Add a bit of oil and butter to the pan. Add the onion and cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to reduce. Add the garlic and sage and stir just until fragrant. Salt to taste.

Add the cream and about one cup of the chicken stock. Simmer on low until it begins to thicken a bit. Add the sausage and allow to simmer. Taste and add more chicken stock/salt/garlic if needed, remembering that the pasta will mellow your sauce. At this point, I add a pat or two of butter. Last, add the fresh spinach and stir until wilted. Cover to keep warm.

Cook the pasta. Drain. Add the pasta to the pan, a little at a time. Mix with two forks. Add grated cheese and mix. If necessary, add a bit more stock as pasta absorbs the liquid. Also, taste for salt. Pasta can take quite a bit of salt.

Plate. Garnish with additional sage leaves. Serve. Enjoy!

Yes. I made the dish. The design is based on an Ojibway design I copied
from the Chicago Art Institute. I have six plates, different colors.

Notes: I used up a lot of leftover pasta for this recipe, including whole-wheat spaghetti. I'll do that again since I liked the visual play of textures. Add the thicker pastas to the boiling water first, then the thinner a minute or two later.


Paula said...

Cool plates!

This recipe caught my eye because of the sage leaves. I have a sage plant but rarely use the leaves as much as I thought I would. Gotta try this.

Kitchen Bounty said...

Paula: the two herbs I use the most are thyme and rosemary. Those two plants are constantly "stripped." The nice thing about sage is that it lasts well into winter. And it's great with pork.