Weeknight winner: pasta with sweet Italian sausage and good-for-you greens

This really is the perfect pasta dish, and it’ll be ready in less than 15 minutes.

Sausage and kale pasta makes for the perfect tasty meal.

Sausage and kale pasta makes for the perfect tasty meal.

 

As a child in the 1990s we had plenty of pasta bakes. A big bowl of carbohydrate will always be comfort food to me, filling and delicious.

But it occurred to me recently that I don’t cook that much pasta at home now. I love it but have been a bit brainwashed over the years to think that pasta is akin to junk food. So I’ve reintroduced it to the weekly shopping list. I’ve recently tried chickpea pasta and lentil pasta but it just made me crave real pasta – 100 per cent Durum wheat, smooth and pure pasta.

Fresh pasta is now widely available and cooks in mere minutes. I usually make a pesto from whatever herbs I have most of: oregano, plenty of parsley, basil or fennel can be used. Adding a spritz of lemon juice brightens the green herbs, along with a twist of black pepper and plenty of crunchy sea salt. Last weekend I made a big salad bowl that was filling and delicious but still had nutritious greens.

Simply fry slices of chorizo till the smoky paprika fat is released, then add a tin of drained chickpeas. Chop a big bowl of salad leaves then fold the warm chickpeas through and serve right away with some fresh parmesan shavings and a drizzle of syrupy balsamic. The flavours are amazing and the sweet, yet piquant, balsamic vinegar is the perfect foil for the chorizo. With the nutty parmesan bringing even more body and depth this hearty salad inspired my kale pasta supper.

It’s become quite the winning formula: fatty flavoursome meat, greens and a good carbohydrate and it can work with so many things. Try beetroot greens in place of kale here or if you want to keep it light use baby spinach leaves. I often cook with salad leaves once they begin to wilt and wane. They might not be perky enough for the salad bowl but they can still pack a punch in a stir fry so don’t discard limp leaves. Or immerse them in water for 10 minutes to bring them back to life.

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The sausages I’ve used here are the sweet Italian-style sausages from O’Flynns in Cork. They contain fennel seed that provides a pop of aniseed sweetness. You could use cooking chorizo or a similar Mediterranean flavoured sausage. Just look for something with a high pork content that’s full of herbs and spice. The kale wilts and soaks up all of those glorious flavours. This really is the perfect pasta dish that’s ready in less than 15 minutes.

Sausage and kale pasta

Serves 4-6
2 tbsp fennel herb or flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
100g kale, torn into bite size pieces
500g fusilli or your favourite fresh pasta
360g sweet Italian sausage
2 tbsp olive oil

Method
Remove the outer casings from the sausages. Place a large heavy based frying pan over a high heat, add a table spoon of olive oil and cook the sausage meat, move it around the pan to break it up.

Add the sliced onions and cook till soft and sweet and the sausage meat is cooked.

Add the torn kale to the pan and stir to coat it in the cooking oils. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain well and return to the pan.

Add the sausage and kale mix along with all of the juices in the pan. You may need to add another splash of olive oil.

Season with salt and black pepper. Stir well, then divide between four bowls. Top with a little fresh fennel and serve.

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