Who doesn’t love a nice, warm, bowl of pasta?
On average, I need carbs several times a week – usually, only pasta will quiet the loud, feisty monster…you know, a craving. When that vicious animal gets loud, I look to the kitchen cabinets and pray there’s a supply of dry pasta waiting for me. Usually, I find a jar of sauce, or can whip something up with the veggies I have in the fridge to doctor up the dish. This combination of on-hand ingredients has been the perfect remedy for my carb cravings countless times. Truth be told, I love to cook from scratch, but I will never tire of the simple pairing of jarred sauce and dried, boxed, pasta. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to think outside the box (or in this case, jar) and find a jazzed up pasta recipe to keep in your arsenal, waiting for that next craving to roll around.
Last Friday, I tortured myself by perusing the slideshows on Food and Wine’s website – a helpful tool, perfectly categorized, if you’re searching for a recipe to try. Nigel Slater’s Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard stood out for obvious reasons; the combination of title ingredients seemed odd, but the picture on the website looked too good to pass over. On top of that, I was planning for a grocery trip and needed very little from the list of ingredients. I even had about a cup of heavy cream that I didn’t want to waste, hanging out from Thanksgiving’s Green Bean Casserole. It was the perfect opportunity to try an interesting, new pasta recipe. Pasta and mustard – a far cry from the jarred sauce.
1 pound penne or medium shells
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casings and crumbled (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup thinly sliced basil
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.
First and foremost, the recipe was super-simple to execute and it’s placement in the “Fast Weekday Pasta” slideshow on foodandwine.com is perfect. I used chicken sausage that was more on the mild side, but the grainy mustard and crushed red pepper compensated for the substitution in the department of spiciness. In a jam, I realized I didn’t have dry white wine (and my monster craving was too strong for a liquor store run on a Monday night) so I used apple juice instead – this seemed to work out just fine. As for the mustard, I was pretty generous and used closer to 4 tablespoons.
The outcome was incredibly decadent – a creamy sauce, enhanced by the flavors of vinegar and horseradish from the mustard. Those same aspects that balanced the heavy cream were complemented by the basil, which stood out in the dish more than I expected. Once the heat melded the ingredients together with the warm pasta, the title ingredients made sense and were no longer and odd combination.
In the end, my carb craving was suppressed by a new, favorite pasta recipe. However, the vicious cycle continues as I now reminisce about the warm, creamy mustard sauce with fresh basil.
Clearly, I will be making this again. Probably sooner than later.