I often reflect on a paragraph in Frances Mayes’ wonderful book, ‘A Year in the World’: ‘The need to travel is a mysterious force. A desire to go runs through me equally with an intense desire to stay at home.’ Oh how this thought resonates with me. I love the magic of travel – new cultures, new smells, new food, new friends. But when I find myself at home for stretches, I relish being surrounded by the magic of home and friends that I so relish and miss when traveling. This is such a time. With spring in the air, I find myself humming around the kitchen similing at all the simple things in my life for which I am so grateful. Tonite, with spring somewhat delayed but now fast approaching, I smiled my way through preparing this simple dish after spending an hour outside re-potting my little olive tree. This dish is a quick toss of veggies, sausage and pasta and so very easy to substitute or omit ingredients if preferred. Omit the sausage to keep it vegetarian; throw in asparagus if you’d prefer over mushrooms. Enjoy!
Rigatoni with Sausage, Shitakes, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts
12 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1 cup of boiling water
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound of Italian sausage, casings removed (pick your fav – hot or mild)
2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts
1 pound shitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomato soaking liquid
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound rigatoni
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 saute pan for sausage and vegetables; 1 pot for pasta
1. Put sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with about 1 cup boiling water. Let sit until tomatoes soften - about 15 minutes or so. Drain the tomatoes; reserve the soaking liquid.
2. In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage is brown. Break up the sausage into small bits with the back of a wooden spoon or fork.
3. Once cooked, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Drain any oil from in pan from sausage. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the artichoke hearts to the skillet. Saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Add shitakes and garlic to the pan. Saute until the mushrooms and garlic are tender, about 5 minutes. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes and add to the pan. Stir to mix.
5. Add the tomato soaking liquid, broth and white wine. Boil over medium heat until the sauce reduces a bit. Be sure to stir occasionally. This should be about 5-10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni according to package direction until tender but ‘al dente’ (firm to the bite). Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the same pot.
7. Pour the sausage mixture from the skillet over the pasta. Stire to combine. Add the toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese to the mixture. Toss, adding 1/4 cupfuls of the reserved cooking liquid if the mixture is dry. Toss in the basil.
8. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with a bit of crushed red pepper (optional). Serve, passing lots of extra parmesan alongside. Enjoy!