This is a dinner that I created one time when I didn't have anything planned and was punting with stock items from my pantry. Usually that doesn't result in anything more than a mediocre meal, but this particular dinner was good enough that it made it onto our regular rotation. I'm unduly proud of it, because I thought of it my own self! And now I'm going to share it with you!
I take the wrapper off first, of course. I am not THAT ditzy! Then I brown it on medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spatula as I go. I like chunks about the size of a small marble, although I usually get overzealous and end up with some tiny crumbly pieces before I remember that I like the pieces bigger.
While the sausage is browning I chop up a small onion and mince two cloves of garlic (or crush them with the garlic press if I'm feeling lazy).
When the sausage is nicely browned, I drain it if there is excess fat, then add the garlic and onion to the pan.
Garlicky! Oniony! Mmmm.
Mix it all together, then cook until the onion is softened.
Next, I open up a can of diced tomatoes and a can of chicken broth. I usually use store-brand tomatoes, but I do think name-brand chicken broth is pretty important. It just tastes better.
No, you're not losing your eyesight. The picture is ridiculously blurry. Next up after I've learned to cook is a photography class, I promise.
I add the tomatoes and the broth to the sausage-garlic-onion mixture:
(Please don't tell anyone how dirty my stove is.)
Once those are mixed in, I add the spices. Pretty, pretty spices:
These spices are from Penzeys. If you're not familiar with Penzeys, you need to be. Their spices will rock your world.
I throw in some spices:
I generally just estimate, but this time I estimated carefully so I could give amounts here. They're in the recipe, which is at the bottom of the page after the jump.
I usually use basil, oregano, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper with Italian sausage, but every once in a while I'll use Cajun seasoning with hot sausage, or some other random combination that strikes my fancy.
This'n here is the original recipe, though. A-yup. Right out o' my noggin.
I stir it all together, bring it to a boil, and lower the heat so it's at a nice quick simmer. We want this baby reducing but good, since it's the reduction of the liquids that concentrates the flavor and makes all the difference in the taste:
Also, if it doesn't reduce, then you end up with pasta soup rather than pasta and sauce, and nobody wants that.
(Except if you're making soup with pasta in it, of course, but that's a meal for another day.)
This is when I put my pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil:
I also clean and chop a pile of fresh spinach:
That's about half a 10-ounce bag, but I generally vary it based on how much I have available and how much I'm in the mood to eat. Today I was in a pretty spinach-y mood.
When the sauce has reduced to about a third of its original volume:
I put the pasta in the boiling water:
I've never written this recipe down (until now, ha!) and I tend to forget how much pasta I usually use in it. This is half a pound. It is not enough, as you will see. Three-quarters of a pound is about right, I think.
Here's a picture of Bryan's family heirloom pasta stirrer:
Okay, not really. It's a cheap plastic thing we picked up at Target or wherever. But see how it's missing a prong there on the end? That happened one time when my sister was using it and she dropped it on the floor. Bryan happened to be in the kitchen at the time, and he made a big deal of forgiving my sister for breaking the prong, even though (he claimed) the spoon was a family heirloom that had belonged to his great-grandmother. I'm not sure how much she believed him, and she figured out the joke when he started laugh a minute later. But it still cracks me up every time I think about it.
A few minutes before the pasta is done cooking, I add the spinach to the sauce and cover it to wilt it:
Then I remove the lid and stir the spinach in, and try not to get too much steam on my camera lens:
I accidentally over-reduced the sauce this time, so I add a little of the water from the boiling pasta to thin it out again. No biggie.
I drain the pasta:
For some reason I find this picture aesthetically pleasing. I couldn't tell you why.
Then I add the pasta to the sauce:
And stir it to coat the noodles:
(See how the ratio of pasta to sauce is a little low?)
I scoop some onto a plate, grate some Parmesan cheese on top, then serve:
And I must say, it was one of my better batches. Yu-um.
(Recipe below the break.)