If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I don’t usually cook with sausage. In fact, I can only think of one other time I wrote about using this ingredient. But tonight, when I was racking my brain trying to come up with something to eat for dinner, I had a flash to a delicious meal I enjoyed recently at Flour + Water in San Francisco with Maris and Jessi, specifically my favorite dish of the evening: homemade penne pasta with rabbit sausage.
Tonight’s dinner wasn’t nearly as fancy (I did work today, after all), but it was good and very filling with the slightly kicky sausage and sweet Delicata squash. The dish consisted of rigatoni, Italian chicken sausage, winter squash, spinach, lots of garlic, and a little bit of saffron.
I know what you must be thinking: Saffron? What?
I actually bought a small bag of this pricey spice a while ago but completely forgot about it until I returned home from BlogHer Food with a tiny container of it in one of the gift bags.
Saffron is the most expensive spice by price and adds a yellowish/orangish hue to whatever dish it’s used. I can’t really describe the flavor other than call it a bit floral, but know that a little goes a long way. The most well-known uses are in Risotto Milanese and Paella Valenciana. In today’s pasta dish, the saffron flavor is subtle but nicely accents the other strong flavors. You can omit the saffron if you’d like, but it’s a nice way to use it if you happen to have it on hand.
Here’s the recipe for Chicken Sausage & Squash Rigatoni:
Chicken Sausage & Squash Rigatoni – makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (Delicata or Butternut)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 Italian Chicken Sausages (about 9 oz total), sliced
8 oz dried rigatoni
3/4 cup pasta cooking water, divided
4 threads saffron
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Also fill a large pot with salted water and set over high heat to boil.
Add the cubed squash to the hot saute pan and cook, stirring every minute, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook for 4 minutes.
Decrease the heat to low and cook 4 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan to clear the center. Add the sliced sausage to the cleared space and cook for 1 minute, then mix in with the vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes longer until heated through and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, add the dried rigatoni to the boiling salted water and cook following package instructions. Remove 1/4 cup of the boiling water and stir in the saffron threads. Let sit at least 5 minutes while the sausage is cooking.
Once the sausage is lightly browned and heated through, pour in the saffron water and stir well to release all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer gently, then stir in the butter to finish the pan sauce. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce and vegetables. Serve hot.