My favorite part of a breakfast of french toast or pancakes and sausage is twirling the pieces of sausage around in whatever left-over maple syrup remains on my plate. The spiciness of the sausage together with the sweetness of the maple syrup is a winning combination. I thought, why not combine those flavors in a pasta dish?
So I did. The sweet Italian sausage and Swiss Chard are glazed in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, and maple syrup, and then tossed in the same skillet with the orecchiette. If you like more spice you could substitute hot Italian sausage for the sweet, and increase the amount of dried red pepper flakes.
Cut the stems away from the chard leaves, and slice the stems in 1/4 inch pieces. Roll the leaves tightly and slice as in julienne pieces. Set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy 5 quart skillet or saute pan over medium high heat.
Add the sausage to the skillet, breaking it up with a spoon as it browns. This will take about 5-6 minutes. Adjust heat to medium if necessary.
Add the minced garlic, the red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the maple syrup to the sausage, and stir to coat.
Remove sausage and drippings to a plate and set aside.
In same skillet add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Add the chard stems, a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chard leaves, another pinch of salt and cook until leaves are just wilted, stirring, for up to 1 minute.
Remove to plate with sausage, and cook the orecchiette according to package directions for al dente.
When pasta is done, drain well. Return the sausage and chard to the skillet and add the drained pasta, along with 1/2 cup of pasta water, tossing well until heated through.
Serve in pasta bowls with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.