Thursday Dinner: Orecchiette with Sausage and Chard

The longer you spend in a kitchen, the more comfortable you are with trying new things. Experimenting and learning builds confidence in your work in all facets of life. When I look at what I was cooking in college or after I got married and what I make for dinner today, it’s vastly different.

This dinner is a big “for instance.” In the past, I would have bought Italian sausage, cut it out of the casing, and used that to make the sauce. Now, I use sausage that I make by hand, so I can control the flavors, spices and salt. But, I would have never made this batch of fennel and red wine sausage, had I never experimented with making my own chorizo sausage. And, I never would have made my own chorizo had I never tried to track down fresh, raw Mexican chorizo in Syracuse. And, I never would have tried cooking with chorizo if I had not become exposed to authentic Mexican food and excellent chorizo while traveling. It’s all a process. What comes next? I have no idea. Maybe I will start casing my sausage and grinding my own meat (that sounds obscene).

It’s all about confidence in your craft and what you are doing in front of the counter or stove. You crawl before you walk before you run before you do your first marathon before you do your first triathlon. Or something like that.

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WHAT WORKED: If I may be so bold, I really liked how this sausage turned out. I planned to just make a big batch of chorizo that day but would up with an odd measure of pork, so I started messing around with ingredients. Fennel seed. Red wine. More fennel seed. It was really good.

WHAT DIDN’T: I was a little heavy-handed with the wine. It worked out in the end, cooking away, but I was a little scared from the slightly purple tinge of the sauce.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium.

BEST FOR: A weeknight dinner.

SERVE WITH: Plenty of grated Pecorino Romano and Italian bread.

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Orecchiette with Sausage and Chard
By Jared Paventi

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs. mild or sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 28 oz. Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 6 to 8 oz. rainbow chard, washed thoroughly and stems trimmed
  • 16 oz. orecchiette
  • kosher salt

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Heat a Dutch oven over a high burner until the pan is so hot that you can no longer hold your hand over the bottom of the pan. Add the sausage and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage in its own grease, browning the meat and breaking it up into small pieces. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

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Stir in the tomatoes, wine, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. Remove the lid and add the chard, stirring together to coat with the sauce. Cover partially again and cook an additional 10 minutes.

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In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt liberally and cook the orecchiette per the directions on the package, then drain.

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Adjust flavor of the sauce with salt. Toss with the pasta and serve.

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