Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pasta with Sausage, Smashed Peas, and Ricotta Cheese

Last night, I tried a new pasta recipe for dinner.  I was a bit nervous about this one, because my family tends to be a bit picky about ricotta, preferring it in desserts over savory dishes, and I was worried that my daughters would not like me mixing peas in with their pasta.  They prefer to eat their peas in a bowl, separate from the rest of their food.

Well, it turns out that I had nothing to worry about.  My husband and daughters loved my latest pasta creation, and my girls even raved about how great the leftovers were for lunch.  It is not super pretty to look at, but it tasted great, and that is what is most important when I am cooking for my family.

Pasta with Sausage, Smashed Peas, and Ricotta Cheese


1 pound gluten free pasta (I used two 8.8 oz packages of Le Veneziane Rigatoni)
1 C reserved pasta water
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 lb sweet/mild Italian sausage (casings removed) or regular pork sausage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
10 oz frozen peas - thawed
1 C whole milk ricotta cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 C fresh basil leaves - chopped


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions.  Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of cooking water and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage when the garlic begins to brown.  While the sausage is cooking, break it into small pieces with a spatula.  Add the red pepper flakes and the black pepper to the sausage when it has browned.  Push the sausage to one side of the skillet, then add the peas, smashing some flat with the back of a large metal spoon, or a potato masher.  Stir the sausage and peas until they are well incorporated, then turn off the heat.

Once the pasta is done cooking and has been drained, add the sausage and peas mixture to the pasta pot.  The heat on the burner should be turned off.  Add the pasta, ricotta, and salt, stirring until well incorporated.  Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and the Romano cheese, stir, then add 1/4 more of the pasta water if the pasta is not moist enough.  Add the basil, and more pasta water, if needed.  Gently toss the pasta, and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe Notes

I order Le Veneziane rigatoni from Vitacost.com.  I love this pasta, because no one would know that it is gluten free, and my family of gluten-eating Italians loves it.  You can read my review of Le Veneziane pasta here.  I always add 1 tablespoon of salt to my boiling water before I add the pasta.  The package suggests cooking it for 8 to 9 minutes, but I cook it for 8, because I like my pasta al dente.  I put my one cup measurer in my colander while the pasta is cooking, so I don't forget to reserve the pasta water before I drain my rigatoni.  I only had to use 1/2 cup total of the reserved pasta water, but it is always good to have a little extra, just in case.  I have found that the leftovers are better if I add a little more pasta water before putting the pasta in the refrigerator.

I used a 10 oz bag of Publix GreenWise organic sweet peas.  I forgot to defrost them ahead of time, so I just cooked them for 3 minutes on high in the microwave to heat them up, which is half the suggested cooking time.

If you use hot Italian sausage, you might want to eliminate the red pepper flakes and the black pepper.  I used Jimmy Dean regular pork sausage in this recipe, because it was all I had in the house.  I look forward to using a sweet/mild Italian sausage the next time I make it, though when I mentioned this to my husband, he told me to use the Jimmy Dean again, because he loved it as is.

January 28, 2015 Update - The second time I made this recipe I used 365 certified gluten free mild Italian sausage from Whole Foods, and the pasta tasted great.  The package contained a little less than one pound of sausage, but it was the perfect amount for this dish.  When using this sausage in the future, I might use a scant teaspoon of kosher salt, because the pasta bordered on being a little too salty.

Adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe for Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese.


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