My husband and I both love pasta, and I make it at least twice a week. Your options when making pasta are endless, depending on the type of pasta you use, and the sauce you choose. Although I love making fresh pasta by hand when I have the time, the wide variety of dried pasta now available at the grocery store allows you to create a myriad of delicious pasta dishes in mere minutes.
When many folks think of pasta, they think pasta must be topped with a tomato sauce left to cook for hours, but pasta can be tossed with just about anything. This recipe is an example of the type of quick pasta that I throw together on a busy mid-week for dinner. I chose orecchiette pasta; an ear-shaped pasta typical of Puglia, and I tossed it with some sautéed spicy sausage meat and chopped cauliflower that I cooked in the pasta water.
This is a hearty pasta dish that can be a complete meal in a bowl. Just add a mixed green salad and some crusty Italian bread, and you can have dinner on the table in just over thirty minutes.
Tips For Cooking Perfect Pasta
- Boil 6 quarts of water for each pound of dry pasta along with 3 tablespoons of salt. I was told by an Italian Nonna that pasta water should taste like the sea!
- Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir, and return the water to a boil.
- Stir the pasta occasionally during cooking.
- Follow the package directions for cooking times. (If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking -like a baked pasta dish, undercook the pasta by 1/2 of the cooking time specified on the package.
- Taste the pasta to determine if it is done. Perfectly cooked pasta should be “al dente,” or firm to the bite, yet cooked through.
- Do not rinse pasta after cooking as the starch helps the sauce coat the pasta.
- Do not toss the cooked pasta with olive oil unless you plan to cool the pasta to make pasta salad.
- A good tip is to keep a small cup of pasta water before draining the pasta to help thin the sauce.
- After draining your pasta, toss with half the sauce and return it to the stove over high heat, stirring continually until piping hot. Top the pasta with additional sauce when serving.
- 1 Medium Head Of Cauliflower, Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 3 To 4 Spicy Sausage Links (About 12 Ounces), Meat Removed From The Casings
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Thinly Sliced
- 1 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese, Plus Additional For Serving
- Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/3 Cup Finely Chopped Parsley
- 1 Pound Orecchiette Pasta (Or Other Small Shape)
- Heat a large pasta pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cook the cauliflower until tender crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower from the water and place in a bowl until needed.
- In a large shallow pot, heat the oil over medium heat and break up the sausage meat into the pan.
- Cook the sausage using two forks to break it up into small pieces until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Bring the pasta water to a boil again, and cook the orecchiette for half the recommended cooking time.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water.
- Place the pasta and cauliflower into the pot with the sausage along with the pasta water.
- Continue to cook over high heat, stirring often, until the pasta is “al dente”, and the water has almost been absorbed.
- Add the cheese, black pepper and parsley, and toss to mix well.
- Serve the pasta in individual bowls, passing additional cheese at the table.