The only one who knows my secret is my husband. Until now. Here is it, my confession. I had no idea how to cook when I got married. None. I had a few dishes from my family under my belt, but let us not pretend it was anything that tasted especially appetizing or that was remotely healthy (think tuna casserole and macaroni and cheese). I could usually boil noodles. Usually. I could take sauce out of a can. We ate a lot of processed foods, but ate out even more. We spent SO much money. We also had portion sizes for people three times our size, or a baby elephant. In general, our eating was disordered and something needed to be done.
Insert Rachel Ray in my life. Watching ’30 Minute Meals’, and buying every one of her cookbooks, taught me the basics. I now consider myself a pretty good home cook. Most of what I make is now completely edible, smells desirable, my son will eat without complaint, and is usually pretty healthy. Thanks to Rachel, I can also now do this all in less than 30 minutes.
Here is the first recipe of hers I have ever tried, and I come back to it at least once a month. I’m making it tonight, in fact, at Mark’s request.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1- 1 1/2 pounds of loose sausage meat. I usually use poultry sausage. You can use the vegetarian crumbles, but I do not love them. You can also buy sausage in the casings and just slit the casings and remove all the yummy sausage meat.
- 3 to 4 chopped cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I almost always use veggie in everything)
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, or if you’re lactose intolerant like Ryan and I, add lactose free unflavored milk (which is also why mine appears more red than yours will)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 package frozen green peas
- 24 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
- 1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
- Grated Italian cheese, for passing
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Add sausage meat. Crumble sausage meat as it browns. Add chopped garlic to the pan. When all of the crumbles have browned evenly, deglaze the pan dripping using broth, or beer as I did tonight. I usually use turkey sausage and rarely have to do this. Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir cream into your sauce, this will blush the color and cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir peas and basil into your sauce to combine. Toss hot drained penne rigate in pan with the sauce, then transfer pasta to serving bowl.
This is just the first of many of Rachel’s recipes that I have tried on my family. I now take what she started with, and add my own twists as I see fit. I like squeezing veggies into everything, so I have been known to add grated carrots to this sauce, or onions, or peppers when I have extras, or diced tomatoes. Ryan LOVES this. Pair it with some crusty garlic bread and it may be the perfect weeknight meal.
*A note on my photo: I am not a photographer! Also, I shop once a month for staples like canned goods, frozen vegetables in the winter, and yes, pasta. Tonight’s dinner was a mis-matched mix of various pastas I had left from last months shopping trip. Oops.