A Simple Supper: Wheat Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Mushrooms

I sit in the morning light of the day after hearts and flowers day, thinking about love. It tickled me to no end yesterday to see fellow passengers on the subway bearing red boxes, heart shaped balloons, bouquets of flowers and enticing parcels obviously bearing chocolates. What a life affirming thing to see love in action, and the outpouring of it.

I imagined the stories that went along with all those sweet gestures, and more than once I stopped myself during the hustle of my day to think: I wonder if anyone is getting engaged right now? Hearing “I Love You” for the first time? Is someone at this moment experiencing that warm heart coddled feeling of love, safety and belonging that is so delicious?

I believe in love. I believe in the mystical and magical thrill of it all, and I believe in divinity in the most sublime sense. I also believe, and know, that I am so fortunate and blessed to be so loved and to have the ability to love so defenselessly in return. No matter what transpires, or how much time goes by, that feeling never grows old for me.

I read somewhere recently that cooking is the ongoing love note that gets written at every meal. I know this to be true for myself. Affection and caring is sprinkled into the pot of every dish I prepare. Though not everything I make is a grand gesture or ultimate expression,  every plate bears a small offering of love and nourishment that my heart and my hands have created for you. And when you lift the bites to your lips, and I can see that you seem to like it (maybe even just a little), it touches my heart right back.

I remember a story from years ago when I was working with a bride on choosing her wedding cake. She started explaining to me in exasperation that she was frustrated with her caterer, a friend of mine,  and that they were butting heads. They were pushing and pulling on a senseless issue, and I could clearly see what was happening. Finally I took her hand and leaned toward her and said, “Allow her cook for you. She wants to indulge you and delight you. Let that flow out of her and resist trying to reign her in. You’ll get what you want ten-fold, I promise.” After looking back at me with blinking eyes she understood and relaxed. And indeed, it came to pass to be the truth. They had an abundant and delightful wedding, and the food was filled with joy.

Like I said earlier, not every meal I create is a masterpiece, nor do the angel’s voices rise with the steam from the plate, but I can assure you, there is always a hum in my heart- there to be shared with you.

Wheat Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Mushrooms
This dish is an example of how a few simple ingredients are greater than the sum of their parts. The spicy sausage is a lovely foil to the earthy mushrooms and the pungent cheese, and the texture of slippery noodles and toothsome chunks of meat and mushrooms is lovely.  I used some pasta water to make a slick sauce, which pulls all the flavors together without a need for added fats. I used Barilla Plus (w protein), it’s a good whole wheat pasta that has great texture.
Serves 6
1# Whole wheat spaghetti, dried
1t salt for boiling water
6 links of best quality chicken sausage
2 cloves garlic
1 small, or half a medium yellow onion
1# cremini mushrooms
2 medium sized leeks, white and tender green parts, washed
1c grated Parmigiana Reggiano 
12 thin slices Parmigiana Reggiano to serve (optional)
S&P to taste
In a large pot add 8 c water and 1t of salt and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and return to the boil.
Continue to cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked but still retains a toothsome bite.
If planning to serve in a large bowl, place the colander over the serving bowl in the sink and drain the pasta, allowing the water to catch into the bowl. This will warm the bowl, and allow you to easily retrieve the pasta water easily. Alternatively, reserve 2 cups of the starchy pasta water, and drain the rest, reserving the pasta in the colander.
While the water is coming to temperature, and the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from their casings and add to the pan, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon as they cook. I like to keep some good size chunks, so no need to break it down to a mince.
While the sausage is cooking, mince the garlic, slice mushrooms, dice the onion and slice the leeks.
When the sausage is just cooked and lightly browned, remove it from the pan and reserve on the side.
If there is a lot of grease in the pan you may remove some at this point. Otherwise, return the skillet to the heat and add the garlic and onions and allow them to slowly cook. When they are about halfway done add the mushrooms and the leeks.
Saute the vegetables until they are wilted and the mushrooms still have some structure.
Add the water to the pan and turn the heat up higher and bring to the boil.
Cook the sauce until some of the water evaporates and the sauce thickens. Add the sausage and cook for a minute to heat through. 
Then add the pasta directly into the pan (or into your serving bowl, now drained of hot water) along with the grated cheese and gently toss to coat.
Divide evenly into six plates and serve with 2 slices of cheese.



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