Sometimes I think my freezer is a repository for UFOs, unidentified frozen objects. Periodically, I go through a ruthless cleansing rampage and find gelid surprises, like gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread (?!) to frostbitten mango chunks to mystery meat from the farmer’s market. Needless to say, I’m very grateful to have a bottom-freezer so I no longer hobble around the kitchen after the latest UFO freezer-break assault gone bad. While I prefer this dish vegetarian-style with all portobello mushrooms, I managed to unearth some garlic pork sausage leftover from one of our early fall rides to the market and thought that 4 months was plenty long enough to use it before it
matured enough to rise up against us in the middle of the night gained squatter’s rights. Fans of garlicky, savory sauces that soak into all that carby pasta and taste even better the next day will enjoy the tender meaty mushrooms and light tang from the tomatoes. The zucchini not only soaks up all the surrounding flavors but also adds a lightness of the dish keeping you from going into hibernation after dinner. Actually all the veggies work together to give you fiber, vitamins (A, C, K, and thiamin), and minerals (calcium, copper, iron, and manganese), while filling you up without filling you out as 1 serving only contains 453 calories making this a tasty option for those of us watching our waistlines 🙂 And at 80 calories, 2 tablespoons of Boursin cheese gives you that rich creamy taste which is 24 calories (~25%) and 3.2 g (~30%) less than the same amount of whipping cream with savory herbs to boot.
Good things to know:
1) Do not boil pasta and then rinse it off in water so it can sit in the colander until you’re ready for it if you can at all avoid it. Why? Cuz rinsing the pasta also gets rid of all that sticky starch on the outside that lets your delicious sauce adhere to and flavor that lovely pasta. That’s also why it’s best not to add oil to pasta water because while it may keep the pasta from sticking together it will also coat the pasta and prevent the sauce from sticking to it as well resulting in a bland slightly greasy carb bomb.
2) Save a cup of pasta water before you pour everything into the colander. This will save you pain and hardship if your sauce is too thick or gummy without making it watery like water or broth would or making your veggies grey lifeless from having to cook down the additional broth. I find that dipping a ceramic mug into the water gives me sufficient pasta water and then I don’t have to worry about being able to aim a 10 lb molten hot pot as I’m draining it.
3) I like to undercook my pasta by about a minute or two, so chewy that it’s not even al dente yet (literally “to the tooth,” such that the texture is firm to the bite), allowing me to finish cooking it in the sauce so that the delicious flavors can stick to the starchy outside of the pasta giving you savory pasta with yummy sauce instead of bland pasta with a savory sauce.
8 oz garlic pork sausage, casing removed **if cooking vegetarian increase portobello mushrooms to 1 lb (16 oz) total and add 2 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1/4 + 1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1/2 c dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
8 oz portobello mushrooms, stemmed and in 1/2-inch slices
6-8 stalks kale, large vein removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 c cherry tomatoes or 1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c low-salt chicken or vegetable stock (I used Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Stock)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 zucchini, striped, halved lengthwise, and in 1-inch rounds
2 tbsp herbed Boursin cheese (I used the Garlic & Herbs flavor)
12 oz farfalle or scoop-shaped pasta like orchiette or penne
2 tbsp shredded parmesan, optional
Season pork with salt.
In a large ~3-4 quart pot heat olive oil over med-hi heat till aromatic but not smoking. Brown pork ~1-2 minute per side. Stir in thyme and oregano then add onion (and garlic if cooking vegetarian) and sauté till soft and translucent ~4-5 minutes. Deglaze with wine and reduce till most of liquid is gone. Stir in carrots and mushrooms and sauté till mushrooms have released their juices ~3-4 minutes. Add stock and basil and simmer till half of liquid remains. Stir in zucchini and Boursin cheese then turn off heat.
While stock is reducing boil water in a large (~3 quart) pot with remaining 1 tsp salt. Set timer for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time and boil pasta. Scoop out ~1 c of pasta water then drain pasta and combine it with the ragú. Add 2 tbsp pasta water if your sauce is too dry and add more as needed. This is sauce is meant to be fairly dry so I only need use 1/4 c pasta water at most. Simmer pasta in sauce for 1-2 minutes till al dente to allow it to soak up some flavor. Sprinkle with parmesan if using. Makes 4 servings.