Cutting down on carbs is likely the fastest way to lose weight. Candidly, cutting down on alcohol is likely even faster but since that is not going to happen, I’ll stick with cutting carbs. But anyone who has ever lived in Italy--never mind lived, set foot in Italy is more like it-- cannot envision life without pasta. But recently, I’ve discovered that if you cut down on pasta portions, you won’t feel the least bit deprived. You’ll likely enjoy the flavor of the sauce even more simply because there’s more of it and less of pasta. Most recipes for 4 servings call for one pound of pasta. Cut that back to 3/4 cup of dried pasta per person and you’ll have more than enough. Then there’s the magic of the pasta water. Without adding more oil or cream, pasta water adds creaminess to any sauce without adding a fraction of the calories. And finally, if you amp up the flavor of the sauce, you’ll feel satisfied with a smaller portion. All of which I did in this terrific, quick pasta that you can have on the table in about 30 minutes.
Orechiette is one of my all time favorite pastas. It means ‘little ears’ because that’s what it looks like. Shaped like tiny bowls, Orechiette hold sauce brilliantly. The recipe for the sauce is hardly new. Variations can be found all over the place. What makes this different is that every step of the way, I added flavor. In lieu of plain canned plum tomatoes, I went for diced tomatoes with green chiles. In went two kinds of Italian sausage, both hot and sweet. Lot of garlic, some dry red wine and concentrated tomato paste all added to the sense of eating something substantial even without all that pasta. You can make this dish in two big pots. In one you boil the pasta and the brocollini and in the other you cook the sausage, tomatoes and garlic to which you add the broccolini, the cooked pasta and some Parmigiano cheese. I made this for two but the recipe is for 4. And here it is:
Recipe for Orechiette with Sausage and Spicy Tomato Broccolini Sauce
Serves 4. Takes just about 30 minutes start to finish.
4 Hot Italian Sausages
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin.
2-14 ½ oz. cans diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup Tomato Paste
¾ cup dry Orechiette per person or 3 cups total for 4.
2 bunches of Broccolini, cut into two inch lengths, tough stems discarded.
1 cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano Cheese
Kosher Salt and Freshly-ground Black Pepper
Pre-Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large ovenproof pot, place the pork sausages in a single layer. Cook these for 15 – 20 minutes on until browned. Remove the pot from the oven. Remove the sausages from the pot. Cool slightly then cut into ¼ inch slices. Set aside.
Leave any fat from the sausages in the pot. Return the sliced sausage to the pot and, on top of the stove, brown the sausage slices stirring frequently until they are brown. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the dry red wine, the tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper. Let the mixture simmer over low heat while you make the pasta.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tbsp. of salt. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for 9 minutes. While the pasta cooks, trim the broccolini to below the leaves, discarding the tough stems. Once the pasta has cooked for the 9 minutes, add the broccolini for 2-3 minutes making sure it stays crisp tender. Reserve a half cup of the pasta/broccolini water. Drain the pasta and broccolini in a large colander. Add the pasta and broccolini to the spicy tomato and sausage sauce. Stir in the cheese and 1 tsp. of salt. If the pasta sauce seems dry, add some of the pasta water. Taste for seasoning and serve at once, passing extra cheese on the side.