Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mediterranean Pasta with Feta and Other Stuff That Kids Are Supposed to Hate

This recipe doesn't look like much on paper: some noodles, some red peppers, some Italian sausage (made from chicken, no less). But put it all together and it tastes great. The key, I think, is that the feta melts when mixed with the cooking liquid from the pasta.

This is also a good dish for kids who pick bits and pieces from their plates: those who like sausage can eat the sausage, those who like noodles can eat the noodles, and so on. I know this is supposed to a bad approach to raising kids--"Eat everything on your plate, damn it!"--but I actually find that it works: they may think they're getting just what they like, but because everything blends, they're getting more flavors than they know. Will used to really resist this dish, but now he eats pretty much everything but the red peppers (which, I'll admit, I sometimes pick out myself . . . ).

Two things to keep in mind: first, start the pasta right away, even before you chop the vegetables, as the dish itself goes pretty quickly. Second, be sure to reserve a half-cup of liquid as you drain the pasta. I usually stick my measuring cup in the colander ahead of time just so I don't forget. That said, if you do slip up, just use any old half-cup of semi-dirty water. (Just kidding--but yes, regular water will work.)

This recipe originally came from an old issue of Cooking Light--or as my friend Jacqui calls it: Cooking "Light." It's become one of our family favorites, the sort of dish that's so easy and tasty, you have to force yourself to not cook it every week.

Mediterranean Pasta with Feta and Sausage

12 ounces uncooked pasta (rigatoni, ziti, bow ties, that kind of thing)
1 TB olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices which are then cut in half
1/2 ts salt, divided
8 ounces chicken or turkey Italian sausage, skin removed
1 ts dried oregano
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
3/4 cup crumbled feta
8 kalamata olives, sliced
Ground pepper to taste

  1. Cook the pasta. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid when you drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a good sized pan (eventually, everything, including the pasta, will end up in this pot--so make sure it's big enough; I sometimes use a dutch oven.)
  3. Saute the bell pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for two minutes.
  4. Slice the skin off the sausages; add them, the oregano, and the garlic to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, crumbling the sausage.
  5. Add the pasta, the reserved liquid, 1/4 ts of salt, the cheese, the olives, and a dash or two of black pepper and cook for another two minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Just as the feta begins to melt, remove from heat and serve.
Family ratings, on a scale of 1-10:
Ellen: 10
Will, who hates food when it's all mixed together: 7
Lucy, who looooooooves sausage: 10
Jamie, who usually insists on being fed by an adult: 10 (he actually feeds this to himself, and always asks for seconds).
Paul, who thinks that feta is an essential ingredient in every household: 10

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