Monday, March 6, 2017

Week 6 - Italian

With so many options for the Italian challenge, the toughest part was figuring out what to make. I narrowed down the options and then let A pick one since we were already at the store shopping and I couldn't decide. That's how we ended up choosing an Italian sausage and chestnut pasta recipe from BBC Good Food. I had been really intrigued by it since I had never made a pasta recipe like that before and was excited to try it.

The ingredients for this recipe, as adapted, were:

- 1 tbsp olive oil ($0.20)
- 1 large onion, chopped ($0.50)
- 1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from casings ($4.71)
- 100 g package of roasted chestnuts, chopped ($1.50)
- a few garlic cloves, chopped ($0.10)
- dried rosemary, a few tsp ($0.20)
- fennel seed, about 1 tsp ($0.15)
- 1 glass of red wine ($0 - gift)
- tomato paste, a couple of tsp ($0.45)
- about 1 cup of water ($0)
- one bag of zucchette pasta ($1.99)
- 1/2 package of parsley, chopped ($0.90)
- parmesan for serving ($0.75)

Not the most inexpensive dinner at approximately $11.45, but totally worth it and cheaper than it would be to get this much pasta at an Italian restaurant.

We followed the recipe fairly closely and the steps were:

1. Heat olive oil and fry onions until soft. Start pot of boiling water for pasta.
2. Add sausage meat and chestnuts, and cook for another 10 minutes or so while breaking up the meat.
3. When meat and chestnuts are done, add garlic, rosemary, and fennel seeds and cook for a couple more minutes.

[As an aside, this all tasted really, really good at this point. I think I tried a little bit of the sausage mixture at every step to see how the flavors changed, and was so excited at this point because it tasted so good.]

4. Add the red wine and let most of it boil off.
5. Mix the tomato paste and water (or just use tomato sauce, but we didn't have any), and add to the mixture. Add a little more tomato paste if it doesn't have enough tomato flavor.
6. Cover and simmer sauce for 10 minutes while cooking pasta in salted water.

7. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and then drain pasta.
8. Add pasta, a few tbsp of the cooking water, and most of the chopped parsley to the skillet with the sausage pasta and mix well together.
9. Season to taste if necessary. [We didn't, although I suppose we could have added a little more rosemary.]
10. Top with freshly grated parmesan (and freshly ground black pepper if needed).

On the side, we made some simple sautéed zucchini with tomatoes. It didn't really go that well with the pasta, but we needed some more vegetables. They were fine but not a great match.

The pasta itself, however, was amazing. It actually tasted like a restaurant-level dish, and with the pasta cooked perfectly al dente by A, it was restaurant quality to us. We loved the zucchette pasta as the big pumpkin shaped shells held so much meat sauce in them and were perfect for this recipe. I would absolutely make this again. It was so good.

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