One of the best things about fall is the second harvest for greens. I love greens of all sorts (okay, most sorts), and they get better the cooler it gets. Arugula, called rocket pretty much everywhere else, is a peppery salad green which is great raw or cooked. It can range in texture from smooth and soft to a little though, and in flavor from mildly peppery to really hot - especially the Italian varieties. Aside from being lovely in salads, arugula makes a
surprised surprising, of course - I think arugula would be interested to find itself surprised, not having emotions or anything in the first place - addition to sandwiches (especially roast beef), where it contributes more than the typical lettuce. I like to pair arugula with other strong flavors, such as the sausage and onions below. This is essentially a "sauceless" pasta, but I think all of the ingredients speak for themselves and go together so nicely that no sauce is needed. Don't skip out on the good olive oil, though. I don't know how an Italian mother would feel about this, but for some reason I prefer smooth pasta shapes when I'm going to go sauceless and add olive oil instead. You, of course, can do whatever you prefer.
Pasta with Italian Sausage and Arugula - serves 2
6 ounces smooth penne
2 sweet or hot Italian sausage links
red pepper flakes
1/2 onion, cut into thin half moon slices
2 red peppers, roasted* and cut into 2" by 1/2" slivers
2 large handfuls arugula, well washed and torn, any tough stems removed
salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp vinegar - sherry, plain white, apple cider would all work well
Good extra virgin olive oil
good Parmesan cheese, optional
Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions; remove a little of the pasta water and set aside, then drain the pasta and set aside. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil, and add the sausage to the pan - slice the casings and crumble the sausage with your fingers into the pan; season with crushed red pepper flakes. When the sausage is cooked through, drain off the fat and place the sausage on a plate. Add the onions to the pan and saute over medium-high heat - you want them to have some "toothiness" left, not to go all soft. Add the peppers and return the sausage to the pan. Stir everything through. Add a little (1/4 cup) of the pasta water to the pan and scrape up any browned sausage bits that have accumulated. The starch in the pasta water will help bind your ingredients together. Add the arugula to the pan and sprinkle liberally with salt. Stir everything together, add the vinegar, and allow the arugula to wilt down and soften. Stir for about 2 minutes and taste a piece of arugula; add a little black pepper and correct seasonings as needed, cooking a little longer if the arugula is too tough. Add the pasta back to the pan and toss to coat. Place pasta in bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired, and grate a little Parmesan over.
Local Sources for this Recipe:
Italian Sausage came from Wagner's Pork at the Worthington Farmer's Market
Red peppers came from Wenger's Produce at the Worthington Farmer's Market
Arugula of various types came from Elizabeth Telling CSA, but she also sells it at the North Market Farmer's Market
Onions came from Cottage Gardens
*To roast red peppers: if you have a gas stove, you can simply place a whole pepper directly on the flame. Char each side, turning with tongs. When the entire pepper is black, place it in a paper bag and set aside for a few minutes, then remove it to paper towels. The skin will rub right off - be careful, the pepper might be hot and might release steam. Place on cutting board and carefully cut off the flesh, removing any seeds. Cut into strips. This is a lot easier than it sounds, as you can have the pepper charring on a back burner while you are doing everything else. If you have an electric stove, place the pepper under the broiler and char it that way. OR, just use canned roasted red peppers!