Friday, April 5, 2013

Dusting off the cobwebs !!

Spring is here !!!!   I thought I'd spend the winter sequestered in the house cooking up lots of tasty dishes, but nope, didn't quite go that way.....

But along with spring comes fresh spring greens like beautiful baby spinach, and one of my fresh ways to eat baby spinach is tossed with freshly cooked pasta, sauteed sausage or chicken, and oven roasted sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil. Besides the beautiful fresh spinach, the tomatoes were roasted to a sweet raisiny yumminess and stored in olive oil (I keep these in half pint canning jars in the FREEZER since it's not considered safe to can in oil). Extra bonus- if you don't use all the oil, you have a tasty addition to sautes and salad dressings !

So, let's get to the dish. You will need

1 box farfalle pasta   (you can use any type of pasta you like or have on hand but I like the cute bows)
1 pound italian sausage links, chicken breast, kielbasa- whatever you like or skip the meat and go vegetarian
1/2 large onion, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 pint jar roasted tomatoes in olive oil (more on that below)
half a bag of fresh baby spinach,stems pinched off if you like
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
about 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans
salt and pepper

Begin by starting a large pot of salted water to boil. Slice the sausage or chicken thin slices, brown in a large stockpot with a little oil.

You want a nice caramelization on the sausage, but if you use chicken, cook just til cooked through. *Hint- I learned this sauteeing in a stockpot trick from my chef Joe- the high sides contain all the oil splatter and cut down on the mess !!

When the sausage is well browned, add the onion, stir well and keep sauteeing on low. Add the cannellini beans to heat through.

In a large bowl place the fresh spinach, parmesan cheese and the entire jar of tomatoes with the oil (I heated them in the micro since they were kept in the freezer). Add a little salt and pepper.

When the water comes to boil,add the pasta and cook til al dente. Drain and add to bowl with spinach. Add sausage mixture. Toss well. If you need additional moisture, deglaze the sausage pot with the chicken stock and add a little at a time.

Toss entire mixture well til spinach wilts and ingredients are well coated, and serve !!

What I love so much about this dish - not that it's quick and easy, it's not REALLY. Unless you pre-prep everything. It's that it's so versatile- you can use ingredients you like and leave out what you don't. Mushrooms, peppers, zucchini- almost anything can be added. Toss in some crushed red pepper for heat or saute a little garlic in there. Beans or no beans- up to you !! But it's so fresh and delicious and beautiful on the plate. The spinach is so healthy and not cooked to death and the TOMATOES- YUM !!!!

Let's talk about the tomatoes. As you know, I am a gardener and home canner so I make my own "sun dried" tomatoes and what I used in this recipe was a mixture of red grape and yellow pear baby tomatoes that had been oven roasted at 275 degrees, tossed with olive oil and salt, packed loosely into half pint jars, covered with extra virgin olive oil and stored in the freezer. You can use store bought sun dried tomatoes in oil if you like, but you may need  a dab more oil with your tomatoes.

I hope you will give this dish a try. With a little crusty bread and a great wine, it can be a real chance to shine in the kitchen !!

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