If you are anything like me, by this time of
the year January (who am I kidding) you are halfway to falling off the new-year’s-resolution bandwagon. I don’t know about you, but I meant it when I promised myself that I would eat more healthily after the holidays. I would stop gorging myself on sugary and rich foods and start incorporating more well-balanced, vegetable-rich dinners into my weekly meal rotation. I was determined to not get stuck in post-new-year’s rut. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve failed in this endeavor, it has definitely not been easy.
There is just something about winter that makes it difficult to eat right. Is it that vegetables just don’t taste as good when they’re flown in? Is it an association with the gluttony of the winter holidays, where vegetables are only relegated to forgotten side dishes? Or maybe it is just the temperature– the teeth-chattering cold makes me want to curl up under a blanket with a big bowl of something comforting and warm (and not necessarily good for me).
Luckily for me (and you), this pasta is both healthy, veggie-rich, and the perfect combination of comfy and warm. Even better, it’s another easy dish that is great for weeknight cooking. So roll your sleeves up, get your veg on, and get prepared– it’s time to start a love affair with healthy comfort food.
Pasta with Sausage and Broccoletti
4 Italian sausages (I recommend Premio brand, if available)
1 large bunch broccoletti*
1lb shell pasta
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, if possible)
Pepper to taste
First, prep the sausage and broccoletti. Cut the ends off the broccoletti stalks and chop the rest of the stalks into small (about half inch) chunks. Cut the broccoletti leaves into medium-large slices– they will shrink as you cook them later, but you want them to be manageable in size. Put your broccoletti pieces aside. With a sharp knife, remove the skin from your sausages.
Get your pasta water boiling in a large pot. Don’t forget to salt the water!
Heat a medium-sized pot over a medium flame. When it has heated, crumble the sausage into the pot. Stir semi-frequently to ensure that the sausage bits don’t stick to the pot, breaking up large chunks with your spoon. Add a tiny bit of olive oil if your sausage is sticking badly. When your sausage is thoroughly cooked, transfer it to a bowl and cover it to retain heat.
If there is sausage fat left over in your pan, use it to cook the broccoletti. If not, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Heat the pot and oil/fat again over medium-high heat with a couple of dashes of red pepper flakes. Add the broccoletti stems when the oil is hot. Cook them until they start to soften, and then add your first batch of broccoletti leaves/florets. The bottom layer of leafy bits will saute and get wilty with the heat while the top layer stays uncooked– to keep everything cooking at a similar rate, stir everything frequently. Continue to stir in batches of raw broccoletti as the greens in the pot cook down.
As you near the end of your broccoletti, add your pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. I used shells because I wanted all of the chunks in my pasta bowl to be around the same size, but you can use whatever pasta you choose. Add olive oil to your drained pasta– enough to coat it and prevent it from sticking together.
When all the greens have cooked, turn the heat off under the pot and incorporate the sausage to warm. Add the mixture to the drained and oiled pasta and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately with freshly ground pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
*Broccoletti (also called broccoli rabe or rapini), in my experience, can be found in most grocery stores. If it is unavailable, feel free to substitute another leafy vegetable into this recipe, such as chard, kale, or even beet greens.