I sometimes think I should have called Chewing The Fat “Chewing the Pasta”. I have such fondness for pasta that I make it on a weekly basis. I am well aware of how many people eschew its carbohydrates. Sorry, they’re missing one of life’s great pleasures. And if you’ve ever been to Italy, where pasta is a daily event, you know that Italians are among the most svelte people on earth. So please find another way to control weight and indulge in the simple pleasures of one of the adaptable of all things to cook.
This particular recipe uses one my favorite of all pastas: Orecchiette, which means ‘little ears’ and which also means they are perfect for bringing all the flavor of whatever sauce they accompany into their little ‘bowls’. This recipe takes flavor even further because you cook the Orecchiette in the sauce. The result is an infusion of taste into the pasta itself. Shown here is the making of traditional Orecchiette.
I first saw a similar dish cooked on a PBS cooking show I’d never seen before featuring a Chef I’d never heard of before. I noticed that someone named Nick Stellino whose current PBS offering is “Nick Stellino: Story Teller in the kitchen.” I had never heard of the man. But when I went to get some background on Nick, I was astonished at the huge output of recipes on the link to Nick Stellino.com.
Nick Stellino, his bio tells us, was born in Palermo, Sicily. He came to the States in 1975, became a stockbroker until one day he threw in the towel and took up cooking professionally. He did not actually ‘throw in the towel’ because he started his kitchen career as a dishwasher. He apprenticed with any number of top chefs until he knew his craft well enough to approach television production companies with his concept for a cooking show. Or should I say multiple cooking shows: Starting with “Nick Stellino Cooking with Friends” he’s been a fixture on television ever since. He has also written seven cookbooks and is a regular at Food Festivals across the country. Who knew?
What is wonderful about this recipe is how completely adaptable it is. This is not Nick Stellino’s recipe but I credit the Chef with the technique and thank him for it. I think it will fast become a family favorite. It’s a masterpiece of simplicity and lets you use any green vegetable you want. This particular version came about when I went to buy Broccolini and finding none I latched onto some Asparagus instead. I had frozen peas on hand and added those to give the dish another texture as well as flavor. Par-boiled Broccoli, Spinach, Zucchini – even Brussels Sprouts could be used here. It’s only limited by your imagination.
Basically what happens here is that you cook onions and garlic in olive oil, add hot Italian sausage, some very al dente Orecchiette, some stock of any persuasion and the whole thing bubbles away and the sauce cooks down infusing the pasta with flavor. The vegetables go in at the last moment to keep their glorious green color. At the end of the cooking process which takes all of about 20 minutes, I add some heavy cream and Parmigiano and it’s done. You can leave the cream out if you are in self-denial mode. But I wouldn’t. It makes the whole dish a bowl of comfort food. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Orecchiette with Sausage and Green Vegetables
Takes 20 minutes to cook. Serves 4.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 white onion, diced
1 pound Italian sausage, spicy, taken out of the casing.*
1 pound of green vegetables—in this case Asparagus and Peas
2 cups beef stock (low sodium)
2 cups of dry Orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup or Heavy Cream ( or to taste)
Salt and Pepper
*You can use sweet Italian sausage if you prefer.
Bring a pot of water to boil.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan and cook over medium heat until nice and hot. Add the onion and garlic to the oil and stir well. Cook until the onion is transparent and the garlic is lightly browned.
Add the Orecchiette to the pot of boiling water and cook for 7 or 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the sausage and with the back of a spoon break up the sausage into smaller pieces and cook for two to three minutes stirring well until all traces of pink are gone.
Add the al dente Orecchiette.
Stir in the beef stock and bring to a boil.
Now reduce heat to a simmer and cook the sauce for eight to ten minutes.
Add the vegetables to the sauce and over medium low heat blending together all the ingredients. Cook for three more minutes until most of the sauce has been reduced.
Turn off the heat under the pasta and sauce. Add the grated cheese to the pan and stir until it is all well incorporated into the dish. Next, add the heavy cream and stir until it coats the pasta and the sauce.
Serve the pasta into individual servings and bring to the table.