About a year ago, I went over to a friend’s house for a birthday dinner, where her roommates had prepared what has now become one of my favorite pasta dishes. I had always seen it on menus in Italian restaurants but I had never felt compelled to order it. It’s a pretty classic dish; orecchiette pasta (the kind that looks like little ears) tossed with broccoli rabe, sweet italian sausage, oil, and toasted breadcrumbs. After a few bites I wanted to kick myself for never trying this dish before. It is so perfectly balanced, the tart broccoli rabe, the sweet but a little bit spicy sausage, the salty breadcrumbs, and the orecchiette grips the oil and the fillings so well. It’s quick and easy to make, but also has a bit of a “wow” factor that makes it perfect for serving to company. I’d venture to say that after that birthday dinner I ordered orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe a half a dozen times and probably made it a dozen more. So the other night, after a particularly long day, I was craving my new favorite comforting pasta dish.
But there was just one problem: I’ve really been trying to cook healthier lately (less fat, more veggies) and pasta tossed with oily bread crumbs, isn’t exactly low cal. Not to mention eating Italian sausage on a regular basis is a recipe for a heart attack. So I decided to lighten this dish up and turn it into a soup. I thought I was so super clever, until I remember that Rachel Ray had already done the same thing. You win again Rach! Whatever, I still made it, and added my own twists. I swapped out chicken sausage for Italian sausage, doubled the veggies (to up the healthy factor), and I used white beans instead of pasta. I covered the whole thing with a garlicky chicken stock and in the words of Rachel Ray… “YUMMO”…it’s was delicious! It had all the flavors I was craving from the pasta dish and was just as comforting, but totally guilt free!
So given that I had ripped off a recipe from Ray and I had another package of chicken sausage, I decided I need to come up with an original chicken sausage dish. A few days after we polished off the soup I whipped up another easy, healthy, veggie-centric dish. Chicken sausage over spaghetti squash with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. If you’ve never heard of or had spaghetti squash before, it’s the coolest thing. It’s a big yellow squash that looks just like any other squash on the inside and outside. But once you cook it and comb over the flesh with a fork, these long thin, spaghetti like strands start to form. It looks and behaves just like pasta and it’s a great, healthy alternative.
Not only are you forgoing the carbs in pasta, but you’re adding a big serving of a nutrient rich vegetable. Plus, you can cook the squash in the microwave and while it heats, saute up the other ingredients. Then stir in the squash and bam! A healthy, flavorful, filling meal, in no time!
Both of theses meals were ready in about 20 minutes. I’ve been hearing lately from my loyal readers that people are looking for more easy weeknight meals to make for themselves. So these two are for you, Jen Micker!
Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Soup
2 heads of Broccoli Rabe, washed, stems removed, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 package chicken sausage, casing removed, crumbled
1 tablespoon of Garlic
A few splashes white wine
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 boxes chicken stock
In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat olive oil, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, and sausage and cook until browned. Add white wine and scrape up and brown bits on the pan. Add the broccoli rabe and saute until limp. Add the chicken broth and beans. Let simmer for 10 minutes, grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top, serve and enjoy!
Spaghetti Squash with Chicken Sausage
1 large spaghetti squash
1 package of chicken sausage
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1 tbsp garlic
Half spaghetti squash, place in a shallow dish with about an inch of water on the bottom. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. Meanwhile slice the sausage and saute with garlic and oil until browned. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and turn the heat to low. When the squash is done, comb the flesh with a fork and scoop out the strands. Add to the saute pan, toss, top with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.