Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Many in the culinary world, and even home cooks, look down their nose at Rachael Ray, but I don’t. She is who she is. She doesn’t pretend to be a chef, she knows she’s not. She’s simply a gal who loves food, loves to cook and loves telling stories. You’re either going to like hanging out with her or she’ll drive you crazy. She found a great niche in 30-minute meals and has worked it better than anyone else ever has.

I’ve been watching cooking shows forever. Sometimes they’re on in the background and I semi-pay attention, sometimes I curl up on the couch and lose myself in them. I have a theory that techniques and ideas work their way into your brain to stay after years of watching. I’d like to think that Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich are partly responsible for anything I know.

Rachael Ray shares a lot of shortcut tips on her show. The fact that she’s now selling her garbage bowls doesn’t make them any less of a good idea. I would suggest using a compost bowl instead, and I’m sure my birthday buddy would think that’s a good idea too. Yes, Rachael and I share the same birthday, just the day, not the year.

When I lived in Sacramento my friend Allison invited a few of us over for  this pumpkin pasta. I loved it. Allison’s a busy lobbyist with an active social life and a regular yoga practice, so she’s definitely a 30-minute kind of gal. I remembered this dish the other day when Jim and I were taking inventory of the freezer and I discovered a package of chicken apple sausage in there. I had been craving pumpkin lately and still had a few cans in the cupboard.

To counter the sweetness and orange color of the apple sausage and pumpkin, I wanted something green and maybe even a bit bitter for a side. I found a recipe for broccoli rabe on Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes blog. Elise’s blog is another one of my go-to sites for recipe ideas, definitely worth adding to your Google Reader.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage, or chicken apple sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (thin slices), about 2 Tbsp
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
  • 1 – 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound penne, fusilli or shells, cooked al dente, and pasta water
  • Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

Start pasta. Before draining, reserve a few ladles of pasta water.

Heat a large deep nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan. If you’re using uncooked sausage, brown it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate.

Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add remaining Tbsp oil, and then the onion and mushrooms. Sauté 2-4 minutes until the onions are just getting tender. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add bay leaf, 1 Tbsp sage and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Add sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream or evaporated milk. Season the sauce to taste with the cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Remove the bay leaf from sauce. Add drained pasta and combine with the sauce. Toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and remaining sage leaves.

Original Recipe: Pasta with Pumpkin & Sausage, Rachael Ray, Food Network

pumpkin sausage pasta recipe writer blogger

broccoli rabe (flickr photo by cbertel)

Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions

  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into slivers, lengthwise (with the grain)
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe, rinsed and cut into 2-inch long pieces
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened and lightly browned. If the onions start to dry out, lower the heat (you can add a little water to them too.) They should brown, but not get dried out.

After you start the onions, bring a large pot of water to a boil. The onions take at least 15 minute to cook, so you’ll have time to get the water boiling. Salt the water, about 1 Tbsp of salt for 3 quarts of water. Prepare an ice bath — a large bowl filled halfway with ice water. Add the rabe to the boiling water. Blanch for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the boiling water and put in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Shocking the rabe with ice water will also help keep the rabe bright green colored. Drain the ice water from the rabe. Wring out the excess moisture from the rabe.

Once the onions are lightly browned, remove them from the pan. Using the same pan, add another Tbsp of oil and heat the pan on high heat. Add the chili flakes. Once the chili flakes start to sizzle, add the garlic. Once the garlic just starts to brown at the edges add the broccoli rabe and onions. Toss the rabe mixture so that it gets well coated with the olive oil. Cook on high heat until most of the moisture is gone, about 5 minutes if you blanched first, a minute or too longer if you skipped the blanching.

Original recipe: Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions, Simply Recipes

2 thoughts on “Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

  1. Babygirl says:

    I would have never thought to pair pumpkin with sausage or pasta. Very unique recipe and great read.

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Thanks! I might have more love for pumpkin than most normal people, so I’m always looking for ways to add it to my cooking. Now I have about half a cup leftover to use, hmmm.

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