ORECCHIETTE WITH CHICKEN SAUSAGE, SPINACH & ROASTED TOMATOES
Colorful food stimulates the palate and urges the brain to take a bite. Sweet roasted tomatoes, bright, vibrant spinach, and creamy white ricotta combined with chicken sausage make a diversely textured, delicious, and healthy weeknight meal. The pasta can be made ahead, drained, and tossed with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. The sausage mixture (minus the spinach) may also be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until a few minutes before serving when it is reheated and the spinach and finishing ingredients are added. If a bit more kick is desired, use all spicy sausage.
This pasta is just as delicious room temperature. Kale is a great substitute for the spinach and a combination of hot and sweet Italian sausages can be substituted for the chicken sausage. If yellow tomatoes are unavailable, use tiny red ones.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Bring a LARGE POT of cold water and one tablespoon sea salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. On a half sheet baking tray, toss all the tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and put in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes look a bit brown and caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool a bit.
4. In a LARGE PAN over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken and use a spatula to break off the links into small pieces. Continue working the meat until it crumbles into small pieces, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt & pepper and continue to cook until the sausage is cooked through completely. Lower the heat to low.
6. Add the spinach to the skillet and stir as it wilts. When the spinach has shrunk by half, turn off the heat and set aside.
7. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss to distribute the pasta and the meat evenly. Toss in the roasted tomatoes and again distribute evenly.
8. Drizzle the pasta with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the pasta.
9. Using your fingers, drop tiny amount of ricotta over the pasta. Use a large spoon to fold the pasta. The ricotta will begin to melt and give the dish a rich silky texture.
SERVES 6 TO 8
1 pound orecchiette dried pasta
1/2 pound (2 large links) mild chicken sausage, casing removed
3/4 pound (3 large links) spicy chicken sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Greek oregano, dried
6 cups of baby spinach
8 cocktail tomatoes, halved
16 Zima tomatoes (tiny yellow tomatoes)
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta