Earthy and savory with some heat from Italian sausage, this filling one pot pasta recipe is an affordable way to explore farm to fork cooking. It’s substantial and satisfying, and makes enough for a future meal as well.
This has been a quiet week for me, a calm before the storm of sorts, but it has allowed me the luxury of some much needed rest and opportunity for reflection. As I shift my focus toward this blog I have found myself conflicted by the drive to grow it quickly and my desire to remain true to my voice, my skills, and my passions.
I took some time and went through my vast collection of cookbooks, allowing myself the opportunity to let my mind wander back to the wedge of time each book represents in my life. Each and every book tells a story of my life with food, with my family, and with my relationship to my health and to the earth.
As home cooks, we have been working our way through cookbooks and recipes to master the art of cooking and learn about the cuisines of the world for centuries. August Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire planted the seeds of my passion for cooking and helped me build a solid foundation of skills. The Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America (and some professional training) helped me hone my abilities and enter the culinary field, and to transition far away from it. Numerous volumes by a multitude of authors have contributed the polish and further refinement of those skills. The possession of competence in the kitchen makes it effortless to churn out recipe after recipe for a blog, but for me there is something lacking in that process that drives me backwards, not forwards. I think it has much to do with soul.
Reading a cookbook is somewhat like enjoying a mini vacation for me if it is written in journalistic or literary fashion, and I crave a good cookbook as much as the dish made from the recipes on its pages. My need to connect the journey of an ingredient to the recipe is strong, and I gravitate towards what most consider ‘slow food.’ I also find it fulfills a part of me who is compelled to nurture. After more than a decade connecting children and adults with disabilities with nature and horses here on my farm, I still wish I could have nurtured them with food as well.
There are a handful of cookbooks and books that have influenced that nurturing and soul, one being Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Also Micheal Pollan’s Ominovores Dilemma. But the cookbook that became my ‘Julie and Julia’ was Clelia D’Onoforio’s iconic Ill Cucchiaio D’Argento…The Silver Spoon. From 2000-2001 I think I made most every recipe. I’m not Italian, but my husband adores Italian food and a Mediterranean diet is very good for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, such as myself. It’s a cuisine that also embraces and requires a kitchen garden full of vegetables throughout all the seasons, and gardening rivals cooking when it comes to my ardent need to create and nurture.
During this brief trip into introspection, I realized something very important. It has also led me to rein in this blog and bring it back into its own quickly while it is still in its infancy. Writing for the masses is difficult, particularly if you are writing to sustain yourself with an income by blogging. We find ourselves with the need to write engaging copy that will interest the vast majority, but it can cause great angst to struggle through all things low carb if you are a pasta lover.
I wrote my first recipe on a blog in 2003, after discovering the brand new WordPress platform, and I’ve been writing somewhere and for others ever since. Regrettably, that has led me to many stops and starts when it has come to my own forage into sustaining a long term food blog of my own. The true culprit? Burnout. Not just burnout from writing often, but burnout from creating a constantly changing cast of ideals and personas. You begin to find yourself wondering where you fit in the grand scheme of things.
If I am to feel fulfilled by this work and sharing of ideas and experiences it is important to me that it builds from who I am in my day to day, which is vastly different than many bloggers who write about food. I assure you I have countless days that fall apart quickly and lead me trudging into this farmhouse kitchen with a deep sigh. The shift, for me, begins is in my view of food and cooking. There is nothing more important to our survival than the air we breathe and the food we eat. Being to busy to feed ourselves a nourishing meal is truly a flawed way of living, and the current state of public health in the United States is an accurate measure of the imbalance.
Cooking, or the art of Cookery, is different for me. Being immersed in this lost art and practice gives you mad planning skills and the ability to pull a divine supper worthy of guests in little time and under the worst circumstances. We eat with much thought, great care, and much respect and reverence for the ingredients I work with. It can be a lengthy process, and will most likely appeal to smaller niche of readers who feel the same way. However, I hope it becomes the aspiration to others who will come to embrace this slower way of cooking and living and find themselves clearing a spot in their kitchen, tieing a well worn apron around themselves while stopping to appreciate the soft patina of an aged wooden cutting board, the textures and colors of vegetables, and craftsmanship of a fine aged balsamic vinegar, or the subtle marbling in the beef they have brought home from their local farm.
This is my world, my passion and my place. Every recipe I write is shared with you as a literary and virtual invitation to sit at my table and chat while I cook, and warm conversation as we share the meal.
I think a good place to start my paradigm shift in blogging is with a bowl a deeply comforting Orecchiette con Lenticchie, or Orecchiette with Lentils. Today is very cold, so I’m going to enrich the meal further with the addition of sausage and spinach.
Pasta or grains with lentils are common to many cuisines, and a well stocked pantry will have a good selection of each. Coming into spring I find myself drawn to meals like this because late winter can be a challenge, especially when eating locally and seasonally.
I am taking the basic recipe and making it all in one 6-1/2 quart enameled cast iron skillet, adding a highly spiced organic hot Italian sausage from Engelbert Farms, a finely diced onion, garlic, green lentils, chicken stock, spinach and orecchiette pasta. The preparation time is minimal, 2-3 minutes at the most, and the 35-40 minute cooktime includes an unattended simmer. If you prefer a meatless version, you can makes it sans sausage, but you’ll need to add a pinch of hot pepper flakes and be creative with your herbs and seasonings as the sausage is so flavorful. I find crushed fennel seed, thyme and rosemary to be perfect.
In regards to cost, this meal serves 8-10 leaving a family of four with a nice bonus meal for the freezer, at a cost of about $13 usually all organic ingredients. If you grow your own spinach, onions and garlic and make your own chicken stock, your cost will be much less. All the more reason to subscribe to my newsletter so you receive gardening tips and plans as well as recipes!
Let’s get started and make Orecchiette con Salsiccia, Lenticchie e Spinaci…Orecchiette with Sausage, Lentils and Spinach.
- 1 lb Italian Sausage (I prefer hot)
- 1 medium Onion, small dice
- 1 cup Green Lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 10-12 cups Chicken Stock or homemade stock
- 1 lb Orecchiette
- 2 handfuls of Spinach, chopped
- 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
- 1 Bay Leaf
In a large Dutch oven, add the olive oil to pan to bring to temperature over a medium flame. Add the onions and cook until soft and slightly brown, about 3-5 minutes.
Crumble in the sausage and continue to cook for an additional 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until just fragrant.
Add 8 cups of the stock to the pan, carefully scraping up the bottom of the pan to enrich the stock. Bring to a boil, add the lentils and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes,
Bring the pan to a boil again and add the remaining 4 cups of stock. Drop the Orecchiette by handfuls stirring after each addition. The like to nest together. Maintaining a low boil, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes or until al dente. You may need to add more stock. It’s important to stir frequently at this point to keep the pasta from sticking to the pan. The dish is done when you have what looks like a thick stew. It will continue to thicken upon standing.
This recipe makes enough to feed four generously, and have an entire meal leftover for the freezer. To reheat, just thaw and loosen over medium heat with some additional stock.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 411 Total Fat: 10.2g Saturated Fat: 4.3g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 36.6mg Sodium: 500mg Carbohydrates: 58g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 1.6g Protein: 23g