Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sausage and Peppers with a Twist!

Like any good Italian girl from Jersey, I have a strong affinity for sausage and peppers. The classic dish is a savory mix of hot and sweet Italian pork sausage, red bell peppers and onion that is seasoned to perfection piled high on a fluffy fresh Italian roll. It’s to die for. But today I decided to take this classic for a spin.

I’ve made Giada’s Orzo with Turkey Sausage and Peppers a number of times and it is always a major hit. However, I was feeling a wee bit guilty today after having spent a weekend of all out eating with reckless abandon in Los Angeles. So I decided to play with the recipe, give it a little more green stuff and make myself feel better about the Roscoe’s fried chicken and waffles, pastrami reuben, late night Mario Batali pizza, and pounds of Mexican food I put down the pie hole in the last few days.

The result....awesome. A wonderfully savory dish that is light but brings in all the flavors of that dripping Italian sandwich I know and love. The arugula gives it a little green body and you could even add more. The gentle heat of the orzo and sausage mixture simply wilts the greens to perfection. You could play even more with this recipe and toss in some sauteed asparagus or another other veg you like. OH and this one saves very well so leftovers are welcome!

Italian Sausage and Peppers with Orzo and Greens
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

• 1 red bell pepper (or use good jarred roasted peppers)
• 1 orange bell pepper (or use good jarred roasted peppers)
• 1 pound orzo pasta
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 3 cups water
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 7 ounces (2 links, or more if you like) mild (or hot) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 small shallot, diced
• 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (can substitute any tomato you like such as cheery )
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
• 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 3-4 big handfuls baby arugula
• sauteed asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (or more to taste)

Using tongs, place the bell peppers over a gas flame. Cook, turning occasionally, until the skins are charred on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. (Alternatively, place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until charred.) Place the charred peppers in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for 20 minutes. Under running water, peel away the charred skin from the peppers. Pat the peppers dry with paper towels. Remove the stem and seeds from the peppers and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside. (P.S. don’t be afraid to save yourself some time and use some good jarred roasted peppers. You can’t tell in the final product and it’s a major time saver.)

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, water, and kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and shallot and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until heated through, about 2-4 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, baby arugula and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to combine all ingredients, adding reserved cooking liquid, if needed, to loosen the pasta. May also add a tablespoon or two of good olive oil to help loosen sauce. Top with the ricotta salata and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve. PS this dish gets better with age or leftovers are a must!

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