Pasta with Sausage and Lentils
Today it is rainy and grey and cold in Walla Walla, and I think I have to accept that it is well and truly fall. That’s not so bad, though, because I still have a huge bowl of tomatoes on my kitchen counter, and also, I really love fall. It is my favorite season. The air is crisp, and usually smells a little like wood smoke. The clothes are fantastic, all sweaters and wool and light scarves. And the food, well. I love summer produce, but I really love fall food. Bring on the slow cooked meats and roasted squash and hearty, warm comfort food.
This pasta dish is a perfect introduction to fall weather. It’s hearty, but still full of greens and vegetables. And I do love a bowl of lentils when the wind is howling outside. It’s simple, and quick for a weeknight, but full of flavor and texture. I cooked this with chicken sausage, but if you prefer, you can use pork sausage. I suspect it wouldn’t be bad with whole wheat pasta, either, but I really appreciated the smooth silkiness of white pasta. I love the shells, too, because they captured the bits of lentils and carrots so nicely.
Pasta with Sausage and Lentils
- 2-3 cups uncooked pasta (preferably a small shape, like shells or orechiette, and not a strand pasta)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- 1 small carrot, sliced
- 1/2 cup brown or red lentils
- 1 cup water or broth
- a splash of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 links sweet Italian chicken sausage (or pork, if you prefer)
- 1 large tomato, chopped and seeded
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 bunch of kale, chopped and rinsed
- 1/3 cup broth or white wine
- a spash of balsamic vinegar
First, start the lentils. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the sliced carrots, and cook for about a minute. Then stir in the lentils and stir until they are well coated in olive oil. Then add the water or broth, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, and then lower the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 30 minutes.
While the lentils cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook until it’s al dente, then drain and set aside.
Then, cook the sausage mixture. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Slice the chicken sausage, and add it to the hot skillet. If you’re using pork sausage, you probably don’t need the extra oil. Just remove the casing, and cook the sausage in the skillet, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon. Once the sausage is almost entirely cooked through, add the tomato, and a pinch of salt. Cook until it begins to break down and become saucy. Stir in the mustard until it’s well mixed in, then begin to add the kale in large handfuls. Saute, stirring frequently, until the kale wilts and there is room for another handful. Continue to cook until all the kale is in the skillet and cooked down. Add a third of a cup of broth or wine (or even water, if that’s all you have, though it won’t thicken as well), and perhaps another pinch of salt, and cover the skillet with a lid to cook for just a few minutes more.
Once the lentils are done, stir them into the sausage mixture, along with the pasta. Stir everything together well so the pasta is coated with the lentil-y, tomatoey sauce. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste, and serve.
I might be a little sad that the tomato fest is coming to an end, that peaches are long gone from the farmers’ market, and that local produce will be much harder to come by for the next six months. But a pasta dish like this does an excellent job of reminding me of the wonderful things to come to my kitchen when it gets a little colder outside. And hey, I do have a freezer full of summer produce to tide me over.