New Year New Me: Sausage and Vegetable Pasta Risottata

Please forgive the slap-inducing title, and happy new year!

Most of us in January will be changing our eating habits after the excess of Christmas. I myself am moving to a more austere means of food buying and cooking, but trying to keep things healthy as unfortunately, the downside of festive frivolity, whether we like it or not, is the figure on the scales going up.

This recipe, whilst not exactly the last word in clean and healthy eating (packs a few syns), was borne out of a forage through the freezer and a desire to use up what I have in keeping with my drive to be more austere – I found a partially-opened pack of Cumberland sausages and rather than go straight for the obligatory bangers and mash, I decided to keep things simple and to one cooking pot.

One pot pasta dishes are perfect for the harried mid-week cook as they reduce washing up and don’t take too much time. And if you’re screaming in horror at the sheer audacity of attaching ‘healthy’ to the dreaded carbs, just remember Slimming World allows pasta as a free food because it’s a grain.

Anyway, this came together via my holy trinity of culinary inspirations – Jack Monroe, the queen of austere yet nutritious cooking, Nigella Lawson whose pasta risotto was the baseline for this, and Italian-American YouTuber Laura Vitale, whose one-pot sausagemeat pasta is a much-made favourite of mine.

Nigella assured us that this method of cooking pasta is, or was in 2012 at least, ‘scicosso’, or very fashionable in Italy. Instead of the pancetta of her recipe, I used the sausages, squeezed from their skins (which was the basis of Laura Vitale’s dish) and browned them off in the pan like mince. Instead of the peas, I went for 160g mixed frozen vegetables (though I think you can get away with pushing it up to 240g as 80g is one of your 5-a-day and the eventual result made 3 servings, possibly even 4 depending on greed) instead of peas just for more colour, and, just because it was there on the side, the spices from a finished jar of pickled gherkins as I had to drain them out and it seemed a shame to throw out the fragrant bundle of mustard seeds, dill and onions so I threw that in to boot. But please don’t go out and buy some gherkins especially! I just happened to have it and it’ll be just as good without. I also added a splash of port, but any fortified wine will do – Marsala’s musky depth would be ideal, or even any leftover Christmas sherry. Or vermouth. Again, look at what you’ve got. That’s the beauty of these types of dishes.

The pasta I had to hand was some rather nice bronze-die gnochette purchased from a local farm shop before Christmas, but any short-cut pasta will do nicely – orzo is the obvious one, or even the humble and now largely-looked-down-upon macaroni. The point of this recipe is to make use of whatever you’ve got to hand.  I have to confess, I didn’t need to and really shouldn’t, finish it with butter or some garlicky Boursin cheese, but depending on how many you’re feeding, I think in bleak, cold January, you can forgive yourself a touch of decadence.

Sausage and Veg Pasta Risottata

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Serves: 2 very hungry adults, but really can easily feed 3-4 less greedy people.

6 sausages, any you like, squeezed from their skins

The spices drained from a pickled gherkin  jar (optional)

Generous splash port/vermouth/Marsala

2 tbsp oil

160g mixed frozen veg (If you want to make this go even further boost it to 240g)

250g short cut pasta, such as pennette, orzo, macaroni or gnochette

625ml boiling water

Knob butter

2tbsp Boursin cheese

  1. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add sausage meat and brown as for mince, breaking up with your wooden spoon; making sure it’s cooked through, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the drained gherkin spices if using.
  4. Splash in the port or whatever fortified wine you have and let come to a bubble and reduce slightly.
  5. Add vegetables and cook for a few minutes or until the frozen look leaves them.
  6. Add pasta shapes and stir to combine.
  7. Cover with boiling water (if it makes life easier, the water volume is also 2.5 American cup measures) and turn heat down. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes, check on it a couple of times and give a stir to prevent sticking and to see if it requires more water.
  9. When it’s ready, the pasta should be soft and starchy, having absorbed all the water.
  10. Beat in butter and Boursin cheese and serve into waiting, preferably warmed bowls.
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