Monday, May 5, 2008

Smoked Sausage, Spinach, and Flax Seed Noodles

From time to time it happens that I end up out to dinner with a guy who tells me that he likes to cook (me: "great!") Italian food (silence on my side of the table). My girlfriends have heard me rail against typical Italian food: I find it boring, tomato-based sauces make my stomach turn, cream-based sauces clash with lactose intolerance, pasta dishes leave me cold. All this plus carb- and cholesterol-consciousness makes an unattractive class of food for me. I will savor a good pizza or fresh fettucini on occasion, but I can certainly think of much more exciting things to make or try given the choice. I know I claim to be unpretentious, but I'm just voicing my preference for non-Italian food - even though I know other people have a right to love it (sorry guys, that wasn't the way to impress this girl).

So you will imagine my surprise when I was immediately drawn to this recipe in a magazine. I have a feeling that it was the photo of browned sausage with shiny vegetables that caught my eye. This savoriness just happened to be hosted by a tangle of fresh pasta, which I was willing to accept in a fresh or high-fiber incarnation if tossed with the sausage and veggies. Why not try this simple combination of fresh, healthy, and flavorful ingredients?

I was also happy to see the method employed in the recipe for creating a clear sauce for the dish (notice: no tomatoes or cream involved). I've been wanting to work on this kind of sauce, so I made up a grocery list and got to work with leftovers in mind. I chose a smoked sausage I liked, high-fiber noodles with flax seed, and doubled the meat and vegetables. The leftovers are great!

Smoked Sausage, Spinach, and Flax Seed Noodles
4 chicken sausages, smoked (about 10 oz. total)
1 small red onion
6 C fresh baby spinach
1 T balsamic vinegar or low-sugar, low-fat balsamic vinaigrette
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 12-oz. package of high-fiber pasta (flax seed spaghetti at Trader Joe's worked)

Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer covered until ready to cook pasta. Meanwhile, cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick diagonal pieces and slice onion. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and cornstarch.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add sausage, reduce heat to medium, and cook 1 minute. Turn sausage and cook another minute. Add remaining tsp oil, onion, and spinach and saute 1 minute. Add broth and 1/4 C cold water; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in cornstarch mixture and pepper. Cook, stirring, until liquid is a little glossy, about 30 seconds. Set aside.

Return pasta water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain in a colander. Add drained pasta to sausage and sauce in skillet and toss gently to combine. Serves 4.

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