"This meal looks an awful lot like last night's dinner," SP said when I placed a bowl of food in front of him. When I planned this week's menu I had a different meal in mind for Monday (chicken with a creamy cheese sauce and mashed potatoes mixed with broccoli), but then I started worrying about fat and calories so I changed it to the Orange Chicken Stir Fry without thinking that the meal we'd be having on Tuesday would feature a lot of the same ingredients.
Fortunately for us, Tuesday's meal was much better then Monday's. I loved the bright colors and there was just enough pasta to make me feel like I was eating a pasta meal but not enough to weigh down the dish. And the flavors really popped - between the wine, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes and sausage there was a lot of complex flavors going on. Definitely a winner.
I made a few modifications - thinly slicing the onion instead of dicing, using cavatappi instead of penne since we already had half a box open, upping the garlic to 6 cloves, and leaving out the basil. I also modified the cooking time slighly since we like our broccoli crisp-tender and my pasta cooked in less time. My changes are in brackets.
Creamy Skillet Penne with Broccoli and Sausage
Adapted from Cook's Country Feb/March 2008
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced [I cut mine in half and thinly sliced it]
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
8 ounces penne or other short pasta [I used cavatappi]
3 garlic cloves, minced [I used 6, we really like garlic]
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large head of broccoli cut into florets
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese [I always use Pecorino]
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil [I left this out because basil is hard to find this time of year]
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Crumble sausage into a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
[If the sausage didn't release much fat, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan.] Add onion and bell pepper to sausage fat, [season with salt and pepper], and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until it's lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, chicken broth and heavy cream, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta starts to soften, about 8 minutes.
Arrange broccoli on top of pasta, [season with salt and pepper], and continue to cook, covered, until broccoli is bright green and tender and pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. [Start checking the pasta and broccoli after 5 minutes for doneness.]
Off heat, [add the sausage back to the pot - for some reason this step was left out of the original recipe], along with the cheese, basil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.