Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What’s cooking? Pasta with Collards and Sweet Italian Sausage

When we made our reservations for Christmas in New Jersey, we told ourselves, “It hardly ever snows before January.” At least, that was what I said. My husband was less sanguine. But our recently married son is working crazy hours as a first year law firm associate, and our med school student had time off and was looking forward to seeing his NJ friends. So up we came.

And then the Blizzard of 2010 hit. It was already snowing Sunday morning when I convinced my husband – as a time-saving measure only, as I’m sure if we ever decide to get a divorce it’ll be in the produce aisle – to go with me to the grocery store. What madness. Although New Jersey regularly gets its share of snowstorms, the people never seem prepared. They react to the forecast as if they’d be stuck inside for a couple of weeks, clearing the grocery shelves of everything but a few jars of anchovy paste and some cleaning fluids.

We stalked departing shoppers to find a parking space, wrestled a couple of people to the ground for shopping carts, and used all our wiles to figure the best line to wait in for checking out. I felt terrible for the poor, beleaguered folks working in the store – I couldn’t imagine that they had fully recovered from the crush of Christmas Eve shoppers. But they were as nice as could be and we emerged unscathed in only an hour.

From our 12th floor windows, we’ve spent the day watching kids throwing snowballs, snowplows creeping down the roads, and cars getting stuck – one right across the light rail lines, which became highly entertaining once the light rail train arrived. We took the advice of the police and stayed inside. Which gave me plenty of time to cook.

Something about this weather makes me think of pasta – New Jersey-style comfort food. I saw a fine bunch of collard greens in the store, along with some good sweet Italian sausage, which I can hardly ever find in Texas. The sun-dried tomatoes are something I keep handy in both NJ and TX larders – I toss them into salads, frittatas, and pasta concoctions of all sorts. In this particular dish, which I made for dinner tonight, they do a nice job of balancing the bitterness of the greens.

North-South Pasta with Collards and Sweet Italian Sausage
(serves 6)

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1-2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium bunch of collard greens (¾ pound), washed and ribboned*
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes (preserved in oil), sliced thin
1 pound Fusilli pasta

*Kitchen Goddess note #1: To ribbon the greens, first remove the stems. Then stack several leaves on top of each other, cut them lengthwise into strips about 2 inches wide, then stack the strips and slice them crosswise into ribbons about ½ inch wide.

Cook pasta according to directions. For best timing, I start heating the water now.

In a heavy soup pot, over med-high heat, cook the sausage until done, breaking it up as you go into bite-sized pieces. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pot and reserve.

Add the olive oil to the fat remaining from the sausage, and saute the onion over med heat for 5-6 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and stir one more minute.

Add the collard greens to the pot, stirring until they are coated with the oil, then pour in the broth, stir again to mix, and cover the pot. Cook over med-low heat for 10-12 minutes, until done.

Kitchen Goddess note #2: Collard greens are about the meatiest greens you can find, and they take some cooking. Most recipes for collard greens will tell you to cook them up to 30 minutes. I like to be able to chew them, sort of like al dente pasta, so I cook them less. You should try them at different stages and decide for yourself when they’ve reached the right consistency. It won’t make a difference for this recipe.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it back in its pot to stay warm. Once the collard greens are done, add in the sun-dried tomatoes, the cooked sausage, and the pasta, and stir together over medium heat until the mixture is heated through.


  1. i think i'll try this with escarole - more southern italian than southern usa! never had collard greens and don't think i'm missing anything...

  2. I hope you were able to make it back to sunny TX. Its sounds like it was pretty nutty up north. Your pasta sounds wonderful! I've not had Italian sausage in NJ so I can't compare but I like Central Market's housemade Italian sausage. I get the mild, not hot, variety and it's pretty good to me.

  3. Sounds very good, and I just noticed the collards on sale at Publix yesterday. Big sale. Guess they didn't get hit like the rest of the Florida produce did last week when it was FREEZING. But what did I care as I, too, was enjoying that NJ blizzard. Sorry we missed you but we also hunkered down (and ordered pizza!).

    Happy New Year, Lee. Hope you are eating your black-eyed peas today!

  4. Aha. And my word for security just now was PERTID. Kind of like the southern purtied up?