Baked Fusilli with Sautéed Dark Greens, Fennel Sausage, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Thyme and Mint
Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty
Full of hearty deep greens and umami-filled pork sausage, this creamy pasta dish is exactly what you want in the deep winter. For a change, try arranging the ingredients into individual small ramekins, freeze, then reheat for an easy—yet special—dinner party meal.
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 bunch Tuscan kale, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
1 bunch curly kale, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound local sweet Italian pork sausage with fennel seeds
1 pound fusilli pasta
1 pound local fresh ricotta cheese
2 balls fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, heat 2–3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic, chili and greens. Toss to wilt, season with salt and pepper and cook until deeply green and beginning to crisp around the edges; you may have to do this in batches if your greens take up more volume than your skillet allows. Remove greens to a plate and set aside.
In the same skillet, add another 2 tablespoons oil and squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings. Break up the meat and sauté, crumbling as you go, until browned and cooked through. Remove from the skillet and set aside. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until just al dente (a bit underdone is OK here), then drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.
Use 1–2 tablespoons olive oil to grease the inside of a 9- by 13-inch oven-safe/freezer-safe casserole, then scatter some of the greens and some of the sausage on the bottom, followed by a 2 cups of cooked pasta and a few evenly distributed dollops of ricotta, some torn pieces of mozzarella and a few pinches of the thyme and mint. Season with salt and pepper and repeat this process until all the greens, meat, herbs, cheese and pasta are used up.
Drizzle about half of the reserved cooking water over the dish and sprinkle the grated Parmigiano and a bit more cracked black pepper on top.
From here, you can either bake the dish straightaway in a preheated 350° oven for about 30–35 minutes, or until bubbly. Or you can allow the dish to cool completely at room temperature, then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and foil over the top (or a lid, if your container has one), then freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw in the fridge, then bake in a 350° oven for 30–35 minutes or until bubbly. (If you want to bake it from the frozen state, add about an hour to the cooking time.)
This story appeared in the Fall 2016 issue.