Cavatelli & Sage Pesto w/ Sweet Italian Sausage and Ricotta
Last night's dinner was inspired by a pasta dish from one of my favorite restaurants in the Lower East Side - Little Giant. Last time I had it was probably last year, so I tried my best to recall the flavors. I noticed that the current menu now uses Orecchiette pasta instead of Cavatelli.
So, here's my version...
You'll need 1)Sage Pesto (recipe below), 2)Cavatelli or Orecchiette pasta, 3)Sweet Italian Pork Sausage, 4)golden raisins and 5)sage leaves.
I used to use a food processor to make pesto but after reading an article from 101 Cookbooks (a great food blog by the way) "How to make pesto like an Italian Grandmother", I now diligently chop each ingredient by hand and combine the ingredients using my mortar and pestle just like a nonna.
It really makes a difference! It's not one big mush fest, each flavor stands out on its own.
- 1 lg Clove of garlic
- 1 c Spinach
- 1 c Fresh flat leaf parsley
- 7-8 fresh sage leaves for pesto (10 leaves for garnish/topping)
- 1 tbs Pine nuts, toasted
- 1-2 tbs grated fresh Parmegiano Reggiano
- 2 tsp fresh Lemon juice
- Coarse salt to taste (you won't need much because of the saltiness of the cheese)
- 2 tbs Extra virgin olive oil
Step 2. Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the sage leaves, spinach and parsley leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more sage leaves, spinach & parsley, chop some more, add remaining leaves and lemon juice. Season. Add the pine nuts (save some pine nuts for garnish) and cheese until the mixture is finely minced and can be pressed into a "cake" - see article for technique details.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.
Step 3. In the meantime, heat up a pan and add 3tbs of unsalted butter. Once hot, pan fry whole sage leaves for pasta topping/garnish. Remove from pan and set aside.
Step 4. At this point, you want to start cooking the pasta. It should take approx 10-12mins.
Step 5. No need to wash the pan used for the sage leaves, just discard the browned butter from the pan and cook 2 large sweet italian sausages (remove from casings). Add the raisins after about 3 minutes. After about 5 minutes, add 1/3 of the pesto to the sausage and mix. Push the sausage mix to one side of the pan and make room to heat up 1 cup of Ricotta cheese.
Step 6. Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the sausage mix and coat with sauce. Add 1/4 of the remaining pesto in with the sausage/pasta. Save the rest for later use - I like to top the dish with a spoonful of pesto sauce.
Arrange the dish by plating pasta/sausage mix and topping it with a large spoonful of ricotta cheese and pesto. Sprinkle crispy sage leaves on top (crush the leaves w/ your hands) and toasted pine nuts.
Check out the "Last Night's Dinner" series.