It's eight p.m. now and I was ready to be asleep two hours ago. I hate daylight savings time. It's dark when I get up, it's dark when I get home from work, my body is ready for dinner at four in the afternoon and for sleep at seven. My whole system is thrown off, and I'm not happy about it. Except my sudden increased craving for carbohydrates. That's an okay thing in my book.
I've been unknowingly hoarding pasta the past few weeks, a box of Barilla wound up in my grocery bag after every trip the store and I didn't even remember putting it in the basket. By this weekend, I had seven boxes of pasta in the pantry. Seven. You'd think they were going to stop making it at this rate. [God forbid.]
So I flicked on the stove, salted a pot of boiling water, and set to work on a recipe from that oh so delicious Essential NY Times cookbook that now has a permanent place on my nightstand. [Not that I recommend it for reading material if you're as obsessed with food as I am, then you just end up excited about all the possibilities rather than feeling drowsy as bedtime reading ought to make you feel.] This recipe, a short pasta with leeks and sausages sauce, sounded oddly familiar and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't until I bit into the chewy noodle swathed in a satiny smooth sauce that I remembered my aunt's Sicilian father and the way he makes pasta.
He would make a bowl of barely sauced noodles, seeming to have no sauce whatsoever just by looking at them, but one bite would prove your entire mouth wrong - the aroma of fennel seed, red pepper, and a dozen other spices packed into a sausage covered each and every forkful. I couldn't figure out how he did it at the time, there was only a single sausage at the bottom of the bowl, a sausage he insisted was "just for flavor, not for eating." It seemed like a waste of perfectly good meat to me, but now it makes perfect sense. That nub of sausage goes a long way, flavoring the entire dish without overpowering it. Add a handful of baby peas and the sweet-onion flavor of leeks and you're ready to snuggle into bed at a ridiculously early hour.
You should know that the sausage in this dish is not the star of the show. In most dishes containing any amount of meat, the meat is the center of the dish, but not here. The sausage is meant to add flavor to the sauce - if you want it to add a bit more bulk for a stick to your ribs dish, feel free to cook up a few extra sausages in with the leeks.
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Rigatoni with Leeks and Sausages Sauce
Adapted from The Essential NY Times Cookbook
2 large leeks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni or other short pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the leeks, discarding the top one-third of the rough green portion, and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. Rinse in several changes of cold water to remove all soil and grit; drain well.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sausages and saute for about 10 minutes, breaking up the sausages as you go. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the butter, peas, and broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain well and return to the pot.
Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat. Add the cheese and toss well. Serve with additional cheese on the side.