I know it’s been a while, but what better way to welcome myself back than with a big bowl of pasta?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly an entire year since my last post. While I haven’t been posting on the blog, it definitely doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. In fact, I’m so excited to roll out new recipes and I’m really going to try to post more often. Expect to see more pasta, meat dishes, bread, desserts and more simple Italian recipes I’ve adopted into my household menu over the past year — and all of them accompanied by better photos because I got a new camera. (!!!)
Not even sure where to start! I guess the camera can count as new-thing #1. New-thing #2, which is definitely not a “thing” and most definitely takes precedent over new-thing #1, is that we adopted a purrrrfect new kitty. We named him Tony.
Tony is a boisterous and playful cat with an affinity (and remarkable skill) for demolishing a variety of paper products and meowing at 4:30 in the morning.
Tony prefers lamb meatballs, loves to eat fresh basil, and just can not resist fresh mozzarella. Or wild salmon — that he really goes crazy for. He loves to sit and watch me cook in the kitchen, and gives the best headbutts in town. Basically, we’re obsessed with him.
OK so back to pasta and other new-things. I got a new job working in marketing and pr at an opera company, and matt is working towards his RN while still working at the hospital. BUT he’s finally on day shifts which has allowed for a lot more delicious dinners together. We’re doing good, but busy — which is where this pasta comes in.
As much as I love to cook, there are some (a lot of) days during the week where I ideally want to spend more time on the couch than in the kitchen. I’m looking for a delicious, satisfying, fast, one-pot-shop dinner. Enter: Greens & Beans Pasta.
The genius of this pasta, like a lot of pastas in my soon-to-be-shared repertoire, is pasta water. Earthy rosemary, Italian sausage, creamy cannelini beans, peppery greens and a rain of parmigiana meet starchy pasta water in this one-pot wonder.
The starchy (and salted – more on that later) pasta water, which you’ve been cooking the pasta in, helps create a silky, glossy sauce that pasta dreams are made of – it helps your sauce cling to your pasta. Once you master that, you can make a pasta sauce out of anything. Never again will you miss the potential pasta dishes available in your seemingly empty pantry!
How does this all work? Well, first it starts with a well-salted pot of water for your pasta. You really need to get used to adding more salt to the pot. How much salt exactly? A small handful.
I know. You’re not so sure about that. But here’s the thing about properly salted pasta water, and why you need so much. This is the only opportunity you have to season your pasta as it cooks, and almost all of that salt will stay in the pot. Just because you added a small, palm-size handful to your big pot of pasta water — because you’re now an educated pasta boss — doesn’t mean you’re going to be ingesting all that sodium.
Also, when you’re cooking from scratch, you are already saving yourself so much sodium! The thing is, you need salt. Salt is what helps bring out the flavors in all the foods we love so much, transforming foods from “meh” to “amazing.” If you’re worried about salt, one of the biggest things you can do to help get that under control is to stop going out to dinner and cook more meals at home.
Now that you’ve recovered from the initially jolting Salt Truth (proud of you), we can move on.
The best part about this pasta, other than the fact that it’s delicious, is you can customize it with whatever you have in the pantry, especially with your new-found pasta water skills. I’ve used chickpeas instead of white beans, kale or spinach instead of the unexpected (but still my favorite) arugula, and basil instead of rosemary. I even created a vodka sauce-like version of this that was so good it’s now a dish that stands on its own (coming soon!).
This recipe comes together fast, but a little prep work will make it even easier on you. Finely grate your cheese while your sausage is cooking so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to toss it all together. I always regret not doing that when I don’t, and it’s in those moments where I feel like I’m on a very intense episode of Chopped.
Greens & Beans Pasta
Adapted from Bon Appetit. Serves 4. (More like two – c’mon now)
- 1 lb. of your favorite short pasta I like to use rigatoni, orecchiette, paccheri, or any short fat pasta I have at home.
- 1 can, rinsed and drained, cannelini beans or chickpeas
- Fresh rosemary
- Hot or mild Italian sausage I like to use chicken sausage, to allow for as much relatively guilt-free pasta eating as possible.
- 2 bunches of arugula You can use any green here, like spinach, kale or escarole.
- Fresh lemon juice Start with 1/2 lemon and see if you need a little more.
- Salt + pepper (Season to taste.) Just in case you need to be reminded!
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup or so dry white wine
- 1/2 cup or so of Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated. Finely is really important here. Similarly to how you make a great cacio e pepe, the finely grated cheese will allow it to better melt into your sauce.
- Pasta water
- 1-2 tbs butter
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add a few swirls of rosemary.
- Set a big pot of water on to boil for your pasta.
- When rosemary is lightly fried and crisp, remove from pot and set aside for later use.
- Remove casings from sausage and add sausage to pot, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring as it browns.
- Once fully cooked, remove from pan and set aside.
- Add more oil if needed, and add beans. Season to taste.
- At this point, you’ll add the salt to your now boiling water and drop in your pasta.
- Once the beans start to release their starches and break apart, and the pot is getting a little dry looking, add your white wine to deglaze the pan. Stir, scraping up all the brown bits collected at the bottom of the pot.
- Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add the sausage back into the pot, add the greens, and add your now al-dente pasta, using a slotted spoon (do not strain).
- Lower the heat to low.
- Keeping a measuring cup on hand, fill up about 1 cup of pasta water leftover your pasta, and add to your one-pot wonder.
- Add butter, and stir — and stir, and stir and stir.
- Add your cheese and stir some more.
- You’ll know you’re there when your sauce begins to thicken, it turns a bit glossy and has a sheen to it, and you taste it and you’re like “hell yeah.”
- Take off the heat, squeeze that fresh lemon on top and toss. You never want to “cook” lemon juice. It’s best to add this in when you’re finished with the heat.
- Top with crumbled fried rosemary and more cheese.