Several weeks ago, Connor’s family took us out to a popular restaurant in the heart of Arlington called Tallula. One of the things I enjoy most about dining out is perusing the menu, inquiring about a waiter’s favorite dish, and asking about any specials they may be offering that evening. There are definitely moments where I take my time deciding between several dishes that may have caught my eye, but on many occasions, there will be one or two dishes that stand out among the rest. In this case, it was an appetizer of homemade cavatelli pasta with escarole, chili flakes, and locally sourced veal sausage. It arrived at the table piping hot, garnished with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and full of flavor and spice.
While I enjoyed it tremendously, I also happily came to the conclusion once I had devoured the whole plate, that this was exactly the type of dish I could easily recreate at home for an easy, satisfying dinner any day of the week.
Tip of the Day: More and more, I find myself quickly jotting down flavor combinations or rough descriptions of a favorite dish while I’m out at a restaurant or café. If you are extra nosy (like myself) and ask a lot of questions, the waiters will often give you an idea of how to put the dish together too. Send a text message to yourself or find a spare piece of paper to scribble on. Instant inspiration for your next meal at home!
This past weekend, I decided to put my “dish recreation” skills to the test. In an effort to get locally sourced meat, I turned to the Falls Church farmer’s market, where I found Stachowski Brand Charcuterie’s delicious, hot Italian pork sausage.
Though I was not able to find escarole, I easily substituted it with another leafy, quick-to-cook green in the form of rapini (otherwise known as Broccoli Rabe). All the other components of the dish, pasta, hot pepper flakes, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic, were readily available in my pantry at home.
Quick, easy, satisfying, and exactly how I remembered it…but with my own little twists.
Chiocciole with Rapini & Hot Italian Sausage
8-10 ounces chiocciole or fusili whole-wheat pasta
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon red hot pepper flakes
12 ounces hot Italian sausage (pork/chicken), casings removed
1 bunch of rapini (otherwise known as Broccoli Rabe)
1/2 cup pasta water
Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved (garnish)
- Prepare ingredients: Remove casings from sausages. Mince garlic. Trim and wash rapini, removing any tough stalks. Set aside.
- Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt and pasta and cook according to instructions.
- While pasta is cooking, bring large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons (roughly) of extra virgin olive oil. Add sausage (without casings). garlic, and red hot pepper flakes. Using wooden spoon, slowly break apart meat until in bite-size pieces, cooking until just pink.
- Add rapini and pasta water. Bring heat to low. Cover pan and allow greens to steam slightly. Remove cover and allow mixture to cook slowly on low heat, allowing pasta water to evaporate slightly.
- Drain pasta in colander and immediately add to skillet. Turn off heat and slowly stir until comes together.
- Serve and garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.