Orecchiette has quickly become one of my new favorites. Orecchiette with sausage, chickpeas, and mint, specifically. I’m crazy about the way these flavors come together. I’ve been recently taught to use pasta cooking water throughout the recipe- it makes a big difference. Using salted cooking water allows you to skip adding additional salt later on when seasoning. I also used lean Italian chicken sausage, which has plenty of flavor on its own. Even though this dish is filled with pops of flavor and fullness, I’d put it in the ‘lighter meal’ category. For pasta, which is usually hearty and filling, this one’s pretty light. That’s not to say it isn’t satisfying- I’ll probably get 8 servings out of 1 pound of pasta. And to my surprise and delight, I put this meal together in less than 30 minutes. I think that qualifies this as a simple and delicious recipe you can make on those days when you’re too tired to cook. Serve this up with a nice spicy glass of red.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in 2 teaspoons of salt and the orecchiette. If you can’t find orecchiette, try shells. Stir immediately to avoid clumping. Cook according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta back into the pot to keep warm.
In a separate saucepan, cook the sausage with the olive oil over medium heat until browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. I like to use Italian flavored chicken sausage. Italian Chicken Sausage combines the fennel, garlic and herbs of traditional Italian sausage with the added taste of red peppers and low fat, skinless chicken. It’s a win-win for me; I prefer the taste and it cuts the fat content in half. Go ahead and use pork Italian sausage if that’s your preference. Add in the sliced red onion and cook for another 3 minutes to soften. Remove from heat.
Toss the sausage and onion into the pasta. Add the chickpeas and reserved cooking water and lightly stir over low heat until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the roughly chopped mint and season to taste with ground pepper.
Serve immediately in pasta bowls. I like to add a couple dollops of Greek yogurt to my pasta; it gives a nice creaminess. Recipe adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.