Weeknight pasta with sausage, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and zucchini: Put on a large pot of salted water; when it boils, add pasta. Meanwhile, chop an onion and soften in oil, along with sliced mushrooms. If your sausages are not pre-cooked, microwave at medium power for 3–4 minutes or until firm enough to slice. Cut some zucchini into cubes. Remove the onions and mushrooms from the skillet; fry the sausage slices until brown; add the zucchini and a crushed garlic clove or two; stir well and fry for another minute. Add the onions and mushrooms, along with the zest of a lemon, a handful of basil leaves, coarsely chopped, and the leaves of three or four sprigs of oregano or marjoram. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce + salt and pepper; stir, cover, and simmer until the pasta is just al dente. Add half a cup of the pasta cooking water to the sauce with a handful of parsley leaves, chopped; stir. If you have some blanched kale, chop it, and add it now. Check for salt. Drain the pasta, toss with the sauce. Cover for one minute. Serve with grated parmesan or pecorino romano. Time to table: 30 minutes. Cleanup should take less than 10 minutes. ;o)
Cheat codes: I use pre-sliced mushrooms and peeled garlic.
If I'm pressed for time, I fill the pasta pot with only half the water needed; the other half goes into the tea kettle on a separate burner. This allows me to boil the pasta water twice as fast.
Whenever I grate hard cheese for a meal, I grate 2 or 3 times what I need, reserving the extra for future use.
I use Ina Garten’s vodka sauce, which I cook up in double batches, then freeze in 1-cup portions.
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