Gemelli with Asparagus and Sausage

  • 2 bunches small or medium asparagus or 8 oz broccoli florets
  • 1 lb gemelli or fusilli
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup sheep’s milk or whole milk ricotta
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • Ricotta cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to boiling. Cut top 2 inches from asparagus stalks (reserve asparagus stalks for another use, such as roasting). Cook asparagus tips or broccoli in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes just until tender. Transfer to colander using a large skimmer or long-handled strainer then rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking.

2. Bring asparagus cooking water back to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions just until tender to the bite (al dente). While pasta is cooking, spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until the pine nuts are golden.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook sausage and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender; drain fat. Add asparagus tips or broccoli, all but 1T of the pine nuts, the cream, and salt; simmer 2 minutes. When pasta is almost done, use a skimmer or long-handled strainer to transfer to skillet, reserving cooking water. Add ricotta, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Increase heat to high; toss until pasta is well coated, about 30 seconds. Add Parmigiano and toss again. Transfer to platter; top with reserved pine nuts and basil. Serve with additional ricotta. Makes 6 servings.

From Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, September 2011

Katie: First, let me give you my notes on the recipe. Don’t bake the pine nuts 10 minutes. I had a lesser amount of pine nuts, and baked them 7 minutes, and they were burned. I’d try them maybe 5 minutes in the oven, or just roast them in a skillet where I can see them next time. Second, the recipe said “large skillet,” but my largest skillet was inadequate. I ended up putting everything back in the pasta boiling pot after I had drained the remaining water out of it. Third, don’t use the cheap Italian sausage that is on sale at the grocery store. The sausage is featured in this recipe, so get some that is high quality and flavorful! Lastly, this made at least 8 servings, which was way too much for us. Luckily we had invited someone over, and got them to take leftovers as well.

So, to get to the actual food. This was good! I didn’t think it was awesome, and it disappointed me since I high higher hopes for it. I think I should have used more pasta water to make the sauce thinner, and that would have made it more elegant. I also think it would have been fine with the whole asparagus, so maybe just use one bunch. We had one stalk of broccoli from our garden, and put that in as well, and I actually liked having both. So I think if making again I would get one bunch of asparagus, and one or two bunches of broccoli crowns (depending on the size). And don’t forget the tasty sausage!

Gray:  I thought that this turned out ok, but it wasn’t as flavorful as I had thought it would be.  I think Katie is right about the sausage.  It was ok, but it just wasn’t seasoned as much as some most we have had in that past, and it was missed in this recipe.  The plus side is that it wasn’t as rich either as I had thought, although it wasn’t a light recipe, it didn’t taste heavy or greasy.

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