Rotelle with Sausage, Peppers, Spinach and Ricotta w/ Fresh Basil Marinara Sauce

SausagePasta-hero

Sausage Pepper Spinach Pasta

So it’s finally beginning to feel like Fall around here in the Big Apple. The temperatures have dropped into the low 50s and it’s been raining like crazy for days. Enough to make you feel a little bit down, but also the crisp air, wet leaves and grey skies kind of make me feel nostalgic and excited for the holidays coming ahead. (November is also my birthday month so celebrations are in order in a couple of weeks!)

Also this dampening weather is a great excuse to make some homey comfort food, curl up under a blanket and read a good book! I absolutely love Italian food and usually get a craving for Rigatoni Bolognese or Lasagna on chilly days like these. I thought I would do something a little different and make some yummy pasta with spicy Italian Pork Sausage, some bright and colorful peppers, a few handfuls of healthy iron-rich spinach, and a homemade marinara sauce with fresh basil, topping the pasta dish off with some fresh ricotta and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and red pepper to give it some extra zing (yes, I do like my food on the spicy side!)


Sausage Pepper Spinach Pasta

It’s really an easy dish to prepare and after making my own sauce I can definitely tell a difference from store-bought pasta sauce, which this one puts to shame on all fronts! I bought some Campari Italian tomatoes that are sweet and little and absolutely adorable (I got them at Fairway on 2nd Ave but I’m sure you can find them at other grocery stores). And the homemade sauce is soooo good with the spicy sausage, savory sautéed peppers, onions, spinach and garlic! (And hey, a little bit healthier than a fattening super cheesy-baked pasta dish I normally crave!)

The fresh ricotta and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese give it a creamy, tangy contrast to the spicy, savory flavors in the dish. All you need is some crusty bread and a nice medium-bodied Italian wine such as Nero d”Avola (from Sicily and a bit fruity and herby), Barbera (from Veneto with hints of black cherry and licorice) or a Bonarda (from Northern Italy with hints of black fruits, violet and black pepper). If you prefer white wine, go for a Pinot Grigio or even a Riesling which is a little sweeter and a good balance for the hearty, spicy flavors in the pasta.

Buon Appetito!

Sausage Pepper Spinach Pasta

Rotelle with Sausage, Peppers, Spinach and Ricotta with Fresh Basil Marinara Sauce

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

I absolutely love Italian food and usually get a craving for Rigatoni Bolognese or Lasagna on chilly days like these. I thought I would do something a little different and make some yummy pasta with some spicy Italian sausage, some bright and colorful peppers, some healthy iron-rich spinach and to top it off, make my own fresh marinara sauce with some fresh basil, topping the pasta dish off with some fresh ricotta and grated Parmesan cheese and some red pepper to give it some extra zing (yes, I do like my food on the spicy side!)

Ingredients

  • Fresh Basil Marinara Sauce
  • 3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits
  • 1 pound Rotelle pasta (or sub Gemelli, Gigli, Fusilli or Festonati)
  • Sausage, Peppers and Spinach:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound ground pork sausage (spicy or sweet, you choose)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • ½ orange pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • A few fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Ricotta and Parmesan Cheese:
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1/4 cup grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A small handful of minced chives, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Make the Sauce:
  2. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, and shock in ice water. Peel the tomatoes and cut in half, and de-seed. Place the tomatoes and sea salt into the large work bowl of a food processor and pulse on medium speed until tomatoes are finely pureed. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes for a few minutes, then add the tomato puree and cook for about 25-30 minutes at a steady simmer (lower heat if it starts boiling), stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and cooked through. Add in the fresh torn basil and remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Note: If making the sauce ahead of time, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  5. Cook the pasta:
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for about 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add fresh marinara sauce and toss to combine; throw in a little extra grated Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  7. Make the sausage, peppers and spinach:
  8. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.
  9. Add onion and bell peppers to the bowl of your food processor and pulse at medium speed until chopped into a small dice.
  10. Heat olive oil in the sauté pan, add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for about 1 minute on medium-low heat until lightly golden. Increase heat to medium high, add sausage and cook until well browned and no longer pink. Drain the cooked sausage mixture on paper towels and place in a large mixing bowl.
  11. Heat additional tablespoon of olive oil and sauté onions and peppers until soft and onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add baby spinach and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted. Place the cooked veggies into the bowl along with cooked sausage mixture, add salt and pepper, fresh basil and stir together. Set aside to cool.
  12. Prepare the ricotta and Parmesan cheese:
  13. Stir together ricotta, salt, pepper and shredded cheese and stir to combine, reserving some of the grated Parmesan for garnish.
  14. Scoop some of the pasta and marinara sauce into bowls. Top with Sausage, Peppers and Spinach mixture and stir to combine. Top the pasta with a few dollops of the Ricotta-Parmesan mixture, minced chives and additional salt and pepper, if desired.
  15. Serve with some crusty Italian bread, a green salad and a medium to full bodied red Italian wine such as Nero d”Avola, Barbera or a Valpolicella blend.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2014/10/23/rotelle-sausage-peppers-spinach-ricotta-fresh-basil-marinara-sauce/

Sausage Pepper Spinach Pasta

 

Click here to see a great pasta and sauce pairing chart at Chow.com

Click here to see a cool chart to selecting Italian Red wines at WineFolly.com

Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

The temperatures are rising and the sun is shining which means one thing – Spring is finally here. For me, that means lighter flavors, fresh herbs, fruits and veggies from the farmers market, and seafood, seafood, seafood.

Ingredients


I decided to make a lovely Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce that is fresh, light and fairly simple to make (not to mention absolutely scrumptious!)

Sauteed Shrimp in Lemon Butter Sauce

I found some fresh, succulent jumbo shrimp and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with garlic, making a bright, velvety lemon butter sauce by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, and some white wine. I added a little extra butter into the sauce, threw in a few scallions and fresh garlic, and topped it off with some fresh parsley and a pinch of cayenne and red pepper flakes to give it some extra flavor and kick. If you want to make the sauteed shrimp and skip the pasta for a lighter dish, go for it – it’s totally amazing on it’s own or with a salad and some crusty bread (and a glass of white wine to accompany, of course!) Enjoy.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce

Yield: 4

This is a perfect dish for Summer, featuring sauteed shrimp in a lemon butter sauce, served over fettucine with fresh parsley and garlic.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sauce
  • 3/4 pound fettucine (or linguine, angel hair, spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp (about 12 jumbo or 16 large shrimp), peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, zest grated for sauce plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Garnish: parsley, lemon zest, red pepper, salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Drizzle the vegetable oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
  2. Prep all ingredients (chop garlic, parsley, green onions, zest and halve the lemons and squeeze juice, measure out oil, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes).
  3. Melt butter and olive oil in another large pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add parsley, lemon zest, wine, lemon juice, lemon slices, scallions and red pepper flakes; cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Stir and remove from heat.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked pasta and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve with additional chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve with a glass of white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) and a green salad or crusty bread.
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http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/05/13/shrimp-scampi-pasta/

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

 

A Taste of Tuscany

Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy (hopefully sometime next year!)

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.


Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine

Risotto:

3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli

Minestrone

Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

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