The night before Christmas, my sister, Abs (who’d just had a baby a month earlier, mind you), insisted on whipping up a home cooked meal for the rest of the family. Forget the fact that she was planning to roast two ducks and a ham the next day!
She said we were having pasta, vowing that she had a tried-and-true recipe that was even easier than going through the "hassle of picking something up." I was convinced she was just being a good hostess. But then I watched her prepare the pasta -- linguine and sweet Italian sausage enveloped in a savory, unctuous sauce of garlic, stock and white wine, finished with a little butter -- and was impressed not only by how deftly and speedily she pulled it all together, but by the flavor punch packed by this simple dish.
A few weeks ago, I had a go at it myself, subbing in hot sausage for some of the sweet and adding a handful of fresh broccoli for color and crunch. My husband and I gobbled it up, and now I have my sister to thank for what's definitely earned a regular spot in our dinner rotation. —Merrill Stubbs
italian sausage, a mix of hot and sweet
fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
dry white wine
chicken stock (low sodium)
1 1/2 cups
small broccoli florets
chopped thyme leaves
freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Remove the sausage from its casings and break into small chunks. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy pan with high sides over medium-high heat. When it’s smoking, add the sausage and sauté, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned – about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and keep warm on a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is softened and fragrant (do not burn it). Add the wine and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by about two thirds, then add the chicken broth and return the sauce to a boil. Reduce until the sauce is dark and somewhat syrupy, 7 to 10 minutes.
While the sauce is reducing, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a small saucepan with about ½ an inch of water, salt it generously and set it over high heat. When it begins to boil, add the broccoli and stir once. Cover the pot and cook the broccoli until just barely tender, a minute or two. Drain the broccoli and set aside.
Add the thyme leaves to the sauce and then remove from the heat while you cook the pasta. Once the water is boiling rapidly, add the linguine and cook until al dente, according to the package directions. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and set over medium-low heat. Fold gently to distribute, and then add the butter and a little of the pasta water, tossing to coat. Add the reserved sausage, broccoli and Parmesan and toss again gently, adding enough pasta water to make the sauce silky but not watery. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Serve immediately, passing the Parmesan at the table.