Let there be seasons so that our tongues will be rich in asparagus and limes.– Anne Sexton
Happy Summer to you all.
I have actually gone away on holidays – and it wasn’t for a wedding! That’s a miracle in and of itself as in last 6 years nearly every holiday I had taken was connected to a wedding of a dear friend or relative. In fact, when I went away last September, it was for my sister’s wedding. This time though, it wasn’t a trip abroad but a trip about an hour’s drive outside of Dublin to a town called Kells. It’s near a lot of important Irish cultural and religious sites including The Hills of Tara and Slane. We went to Tara, the Spire of Lloyd and a lake in nearby Cavan. We were about 5 minutes from a Holy Well which I think I went to about 3 times in the one week! The children liked to go and climb the hill and drink the waters. We stayed in two adorable cottages outside of Kells (we were 14 people – I am from a large family) and spent the few days lazing in the garden, eating tons of food and playing some board games. Additionally, we had a movie night with the classic The Princess Bride. It was so lovely to do something so “normal” after the nightmare the last year has been.
Anway, enough about my holiday! On to the recipe and how it came about. I don’t know which chefs you like to follow or if you are at all familiar with Jamie Oliver. He’s quite popular over here in Ireland. A couple of years ago, he did a tour of Italy and spent time with the Italian Nonnas cooking and learning from them. Gennaro Contaldo was another chef who joined him. Gennaro is Italian and is Jamie Oliver’s mentor. He’s also completely charming. Well, at least I think he is based on what I’ve seen of him as I haven’t actually ever met him, nor have I watched any of his shows, but I do follow him on Instagram and he is so full of joie de vivre. I love watching his little tutorials and reading his comments. He brings me joy on sad, grey days.
Anyway, a few weeks ago he posted a recipe with asparagus and courgette as they were in season. It looked delicious and I went out and bought both ingredients. I forgot to buy the tomatoes and I had some sausages on hand that needed to be used up so I improvised and came up with the following dish. It’s definitely inspired by Gennaro Contaldo’s seasonal dish but the end result is quite different. I guess you could say it is a fusion of Italian and Irish food as sausages are a very Irish thing to eat.
I hope you enjoy it, and that you take some time to soak up Gennaro’s jolly outlook on life and cooking. You won’t regret it.
Asparagus, Courgette and Sausage Pasta
- 1 small courgette, quartered and chopped into chunks
- 1 bunch, around 250g, of asparagus, trimmed and then sliced into thirds
- 4-6 shallots, slice lengthwise into 3rds or 4ths and then slice horizontally the same number of times.
- 4 pork sausages, cut into 4ths, 115g approximately. I used Clonakilty Ispíní (Ispíní is the Irish word for sausage)**
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed***
- 1/2 tsp of dried basil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh if you have it
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- fine sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup of pasta water
- Pasta, 250g. I used Voiella La Mezza Manica Rigata cooking time was 13 minutes, according to the package directions, but you only need to cook for 10-11. I like this pasta because it’s big enough for a piece of courgette or sausage to fit into the centre. Otherwise, use penne, which is what I used the first few times I made this.
- 1-2 tbsp table salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided, fresh if you have it
- 3 tbsp green pesto
- 30g Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
- 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts, optional
- fresh basil – 4 or so leaves per bowl, optional. You can leave them whole or chop them. If you don’t have fresh basil, use 1/2 tsp of dried basil and just stir into the pesto.
- Put the courgette, asparagus, shallots and sausage into a bowl and stir gently to mix.
- Add the ingredients for the marinade and stir gently to combine. Cover with clingfilm and leave on the counter, for 30 minutes.
- At the end of 30 minutes, put an inch or two of water into a big pot to come to the boil. At the same time boil an electric kettle full of water.
- At the same time as you are putting the water on to boil, put a large frying pan on medium-high heat (my cooker has a 1-6 setting, so I’m using number 4). Once hot, add half a tbsp of olive oil to heat.
- After 30 seconds of heating the oil, add the sasuages to the frying pan. There should be 16 pieces frying in the oil. Turn frequently until they start to gently brown on most sides. Some of the other ingredients, like the garlic or shallot which were stuck to the sausage, might start to stick to the bottom of your pan. Scrape them off the bottom but don’t worry too much as when you add the remaining marinating ingredients, they will de-glaze.
- Once the water in the kettle has boiled, add it to the pot along with the 1-2 tbsp of salt. If needed, boil another kettle full until the water in the pot is about an inch from the surface. Add a tbsp of lemon juice and keep bringing to the boil (at least another 20-30 minutes for my pot which is huge).
- After 8-10 minutes, add the shallots, asparagus, courgette and marinade on top of the sausages and let it cook for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Then stir everything in together, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as the marinade will de-glaze any garlic or shallots that were browning while the sasuages were cooking.
- Keep cooking and stirring occassionally, making sure that the sausages are always touching the bottom of the pan so that they brown. After about another 10 or sominutes, the marinade will have boiled off and the garlic and shallots will stick to the bottom of the pan again. Scrape them off and keep doing this for the moment, as needed.
- Meanwhile, when the water and lemon juice are boiling, add the pasta and stir. Once it comes back to the boil, boil for 5 minutes and then dip a mug into the pasta water and add a little, about a 1/4 cup, to the frying pan. Make sure no pieces of pasta went into the mug. If they have, spoon them out and put back in the pot.
- Using the pasta water, de-glaze the frying pan. When that pasta water has mostly cooked off and the ingredients are, again, sticking to the pan, add some more of the pasta water, another 1/4 cup, and de-glaze. You should only need to do this twice with the pasta water.
- Meanwhile, after another 5 minutes of boiling the pasta (10-11 altogether), drain it well and tip back into the pot it had been cooking in.
- Add the pesto and 1 tbsp of lemon juice to the pasta and stir until well-combined.
- Add the cheese and pine nuts to the pasta and combine well. Set the pot aside until you need it.
- Once the sausages are mostly browned all over, and the courgette has shrunk a bit and browned a little, remove from the heat and stir through the pasta.
- Divide into 4 bowls and serve with fresh basil on top.
*Most of the time, I divide it into 4 portions, so I have some for the next day’s meals. However, when I’ve been really hungry, I have easily eaten half in one go. But then, maybe you aren’t a pasta fiend!
**If you wanted to make this for more people, you could add 2 sausages per person rather than just four. You could also double the vegetables and the marinade.
***Normally, I’d add more garlic but I wanted the basil and lemon to shine.