Garganelli with Spicy Sausage and Dandelion

Garganelli with Spicy Sausage and Dandelion

If ever there were a perfect pasta… Who am I kidding, I could ever choose just one. This garganelli dish is the kind of pasta you make when you want to impress guests (or yourself for that matter) without having to put in a lot of effort. The perk of using Italian sausage as a flavour base is that it comes complete with a ton of spices intermingled with the meat. So, by rendering the sausage and dousing it with a bit of pasta cooking water you can easily create a delicious coating or saucy jacket for your noodles. Adding dandelion greens is a way to not only balance the flavours of the dish (with their natural bite and peppery-ness), but it’s also the way I add some extra nutrition. Italians use dandelion and other bitter-edged greens throughout their cuisine so they're a great thing to get familiar with if you love their food like I do. But please don’t go out to your neighbour’s lawn and yank out a few pesticide-filled dandelions - stick to the ones sold in grocery stores. Don't have garganelli pasta? Totally cool, you can easily substitute with orechiette or penne rigate. Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 links spicy Italian sausage, meat squeezed out of casings (if you can’t find them spicy, use plain Italian and add ½ tsp red chili flakes)
250 g garganelli pasta, cooked 1 minute less than package directions for al dente
1 bunch dandelion greens, rinsed well, stems and leaved chopped into 3-inch lengths, separated
1 Cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

Directions

  1. Set a large pot of salted water onto a burner and heat on high to boil.
  2. Preheat a large stainless steel pan over medium heat. Once heated, add the olive oil and sausage meat. Cook until almost fully cooked and hardly any pink is visible. Add the dandelion stems and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until sausage is fully cooked. Turn off heat. Note: in the interest of timing and making sure your pasta isn’t overcooked, I suggest setting the pasta water to boil while you cook the sausage and dandelion stems. These ingredients can hang out just fine (once the burner has been turned off) while the pasta cooks without ruining their texture, whereas the pasta cannot. This is how you avoid overcooking pasta – remember this trick!
  3. Once water is boiling, add the pasta, stir a few times to prevent sticking, and cook 1 minute less than package directions for al dente. Use a large slotted spoon to add the cooked pasta to the pan with the sausage and dandelion stems (set heat to medium if you’ve turned it off). Add a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to the pan as well, and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate and lift the caramelized bits of meat from the bottom of the pan, incorporating them into the liquid. Add the dandelion leaves and Parmesan, stir to combine, and serve immediately. I won’t judge if you add more cheese to your serving…
  4. Enjoy!