This simple Italian-inspired dinner has meaty chunks of Italian sausage, tender cavatappi, crisp tender broccolini and sweet sun-dried tomatoes with a creamy parmesan sauce. Italian Sausage with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes makes an easy weeknight meal.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s already mid-June. Or as it’s known in South Florida, the start of hurricane season. I’m not going to go all “Jim Cantore” on you, but at this time of the year, I’m mindful of the weather. Aside from stocking up on batteries, and cans of corned beef hash, I like to start cleaning out the freezer. Items hibernating in that icy tundra for the better part of six months (maybe longer – ahem) need to be used, preferably before the “cone of terror” zeros in on us.
It was 2004 when we were hit with hurricanes Frances and Jeanne only one week apart. One year later, it was Wilma. In each instance, we were without power for days. No electricity means no refrigeration. Suddenly, everything in our fridge had a very limited shelf life. The first day, was ok. We passed the time playing Monopoly by candlelight and thinking that Florida Power and Light (FPL) is surely on their way to restore power. We could wait for a few hours. The food in the fridge would stay cold that first day, just by limiting the time the door was open.
Into day two, I was pulling out everything with the most fragile shelf-life — good leftovers, eggs, milk, cheese, delicate vegetables, anything in the cold cut bin. By day three, I was using up those freezer items that were beginning to thaw — which made for some interesting eating. Some fish, a container of marinara sauce, some semi-frozen vegetables. Larger packages like roaster chickens and a whole ham, had a longer thawing time, so they didn’t come out until day four at which point, we had no choice — everything had to be eaten or discarded. Of course it was way too much food for the three of us, so the neighbors joined us for a smorgasbord, and they brought their own “use it or lose it” fare from their own freezers. We set up several grills and began cooking. We’re talking survival, people!
While the hodgepodge of food makes for a good story, I now take a more considered approach during hurricane season. That is why every June, I cut back on buying fresh meat and start culling the herd already living in my freezer — so that by the time the winds start to twitch, and we’re out of power, we’re not left with more than we can possibly eat at one time and I’m not throwing out a bunch of food that we just never got around to eating.
My efforts to winnow down the freezer start now with this italian sausage I found hiding in the back of the icebox. Actually, I have several packages of italian sausage – so this is the first of at least two sausage posts to come. Here’s what I’m making with this one.
Cavatappi with Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound italian sausages in casings
- 1 pound cavatappi or other corkscrew pasta
- 2 cups broccoli florets or broccoli rabe trimmed into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted, roughly chopped
- 1/2 medium onion root trimmed, sliced lengthwise
- 1 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes drained, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1- 1 1/2 cups pasta water.
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Fill a large stock pot about halfway full with water. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Cover with lid and bring to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water, stirring once or twice. Cook to 3 minutes less than package directions. At this point reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Add broccoli to the pasta and boil additional 3 minutes. Drain pasta and broccoli.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium high flame. Carefully add sausages (they may splatter) and cook for a few minutes on each side until they are browned on several sides. Remove sausages to a cutting board. Slice sausages on the diagonal about 1/2" thick and set aside.
- Add onion to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are crisp tender. Add mushrooms and tomatoes. Stir and cook an additional one to two minutes until heated through.
- Add pasta water a ladleful at a time to create a sauce, continue to cook until sauce is reduced by half. Add cream and red pepper flakes, stirring to combine. Heat for a minute or two until bubbly and saucy. Add sausages back into the pan. Add drained pasta and broccoli and toss together.
- Add parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
Cream can be boiled without curdling. Half and half or milk cannot. If you want to use half and half, don't add it until you've taken the pot off the heat, then toss in the pasta and broccoli.
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