Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Family Style Pasta - Spinach Tortellacci with Spicy Italian Sausage

Hello crushers,

I did a LOT of cooking over the weekend because we were home getting lots of things done around the house. It was nice to take down some of the Christmas decorations and organize things so we know we can find them next year. It was also nice to get to have enough time to make a gigantic meal for the Packer game so we weren't rushed to have dinner ready by kickoff. Sadly, the Packers did not continue on to the next playoff game, but we had a great meal.

See how big those noodles are?
One of the things I love about recipes is when you know you've made enough for a family to sit down and enjoy a meal without having to get up a million times to grab this or that. Family-style pasta is a great option, and this meal was inspired by two things: the awesome elderly gentleman at Glorioso's, the best Italian grocery in Milwaukee, who hands out cookies to chew on while you decide what cut of meat to order and Giada Di Laurentiis, the Food Network Queen of Family Style Pasta.

Glorioso's is one of my favorite specialty grocery stores to wander through. They will often let you have a taste of olives or something if you're really undecided. I got to try an olive stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese. It was amazing! We left the store with a wedge of Parmesan cheese, a few types of olives including the kind I got to sample, a half pound of caprese salad from the deli, a pound of spicy Italian sausage (they make their own!) and a pound of spinach tortellacci.

No, you didn't read that wrong. I said tortellacci. If you haven't already typed that in a search engine, please let me explain what it is. You are probably familiar with tortellini, the delightful stuffed round pasta. It rhymes with teeny, so it's the smallest. Tortelloni is the next size up. Tortellacci is the biggest version of this stuffed noodle. Another way to remember it is that when you say the words, your mouth has to open the least to say the word for the smallest noodle, and it has to open the widest for the biggest noodle. No matter the size, it's delicious.

1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage (about two links)
1 pound spinach tortellacci, cooked according to the package directions
1/2 green pepper, diced
5-6 button mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (we like the kind with basil or chunky veggies)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

(Note: We made side salads to go with this, so we put some of the onions, mushrooms and peppers on the lettuce. We also snacked on the caprese salad and olives. We had plenty of leftovers for dinner the next night!).

First, pour yourself a glass of wine because you're about to make a mess in the kitchen. Second, get out a large pot to boil the pasta in and a large sauce pan because you're going to be cooking everything else in that.

If your sausage is very lean (ours was), then put some olive oil in the pan and let it heat up. Cook the sausage in the pan browning it on both sides. You'll want to make sure that the insides reach at least 160 degrees. Normally, you cook pork to 165, but you'll keep cooking this later, so it'll finish then. I cooked up all of the sausage so that we could have it for another meal later, but you really only need the two links.
Cooking sausage - the white things are rough-chopped garlic.
While the sausage is sizzling away, dice up your veggies. When the sausage is done, take it out of pan to drain on some paper towels. Drain off all but about a half to a whole tbsp of grease/olive oil. Dump all of your veggies in the pan and saute them in the leftover oil. Once the onions get translucent, slice up the sausage into 1/2 inch pieces and put them back in the pan with the veggies. Add your marinara sauce and let that simmer until your pasta is done. Drain the pasta and add it right to the sausage and veggies. Mix it all up and let it heat through together.

Fancy "tailgating" food! If you can see it, there are olives,
mozzarella and tomatoes, and the salads on the side.
While you're doing that you can get all your plates and sides ready to go. Settle in to watch your favorite football team play or maybe light a few candles for a romantic meal or feed a family of four hungry people. Anyway you serve it, I hope you enjoy it!

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