Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Arugula-Goat Cheese Pesto
Every year, I have what I lovingly refer to as my “mid-winter crisis.” It’s a two-week phase where I’m consumed by a crazy itch to overhaul every. single. thing. in my life—from my career to my appearance. The desired life changes vary from year to year, but when it comes to ze physical tweaks, I couldn’t be more predictable.
Come late January, I send the inevitable message over the group text: Should I dye my hair??? I’m thinking Angelina Jolie dark.
This query is followed by a flurry of supportive texts: Do it! Maybe not quite black, but I think darker hair would suit you! Why not?! If it looks like shit, you can always dye it back. I think about it for a bit, get panicky, and then February rolls around. I don’t change my hair (or my career/life), and everything is fine and dandy once again.
So two weeks ago, I texted the group re: mid-winter crisis hair dying (clockwork, baby!) but with a slight change: Should I dye my hair??? I’m thinking blonde.
As per usual, ze group was very supportive, albeit skeptical. The general theme: Yes!! Everyone should go blonde once! You can pull it off! But we’re really just discussing this for funsies because we all know you won’t do it!!
I get it. I’m the girl who cried hair dye. I’ve lost all credibility…
BUT THIS TIME, I DID DO IT.
That’s right, friends, your weird blog lady is now a blonde. Surprise! (Unless we’re Instagram peeps, and I already surprised you.)
Honestly, I’m not sure how or why I decided to take the plunge this year. Maybe because I’ve already made so many other changes in 2018? (I moved! I put less fruit in my smoothies! I’m a woman who hangs her pants!) Maybe because I felt like if I could sack up and take a risk with my hair I’d feel empowered to take other risks in my life? Superficial, sure, but still potentially true? I don’t know!
But what I do know is I’ve got a new head of blonde hair, I dig it (every time I walk past a mirror, I’m tempted to scream, “You better work, bitch!”), and I want to mix thangs up all over the place. Including in the kitchen.
My goal for the near future is to fill in the holes in the blog archives and create recipes that I wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward. Like pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some pasta, but I make the same exact version on Friday nights—Dude Diet penne with spinach pesto, plus roasted cauliflower, chicken, and goat cheese—so I rarely experiment with other recipes.
Blonde Serena is wild though, and she whipped up this mind-blowing Pasta with Sausage, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula-Goat Cheese Pesto for you yesterday.
This one’s a keeper, people. First of all, the pesto is insanely delicious. It’s bright and peppery, and the combo of buttery walnuts and tangy goat cheese gives it the perfect creaminess and depth. It could be mixed with/spread on almost anything, but it’s overly delightful tossed with your favorite pasta, savory chicken sausage, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes. Hot damn.
When it comes to the pasta in this dish, I like to keep things healthyish with a whole-grain or grain-free option. I went with Banza chickpea flour ziti, which was surprisingly good, but I’m also a big fan of Jovial brown rice pasta. For this particular recipe, I recommend a short pasta like penne, ziti, fusilli, or bowties, but as always, you do you.
Oh, and I know some of you will be alarmed when you see the length of the ingredient list. Breathe. I promise it’s mostly pantry ingredients, and I repeated a lot of staples (garlic, olive oil, salt, etc.) for the pasta, pesto, and garlicky breadcrumbs. Speaking of the breadcrumbs, they’re 100% optional, but they add the most glorious garlic-laced crunch to every bite, so I recommend taking the extra 5 minutes to treat yo’self.
Happy weekending to all! May we all survive Super Bowl Sunday in one piece…
Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Arugula-Goat Cheese Pesto: (Serves 4)
8 ounces grain-free or whole-grain penne, ziti, or fusilli (I used Banza ziti.)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 spicy or sweet Italian chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes olive oil, drained, patted dry, and thinly sliced
For the pesto:
3 packed cups baby arugula
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup raw walnuts
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (You can also use the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar if you’re feeling fancy.)
For the garlicky breadcrumbs: (optional)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
Preparing your Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Arugula-Goat Cheese Pesto:
-Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
-Meanwhile, make the pesto. Add the arugula and basil to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and goat cheese.
-Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times if necessary. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and process until well incorporated. Taste the pesto and season with a little extra salt and pepper if it needs it. Set aside.
-Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water, then strain the pasta and briefly set aside. (If you’re using a gluten-free pasta, be sure to rinse the pasta with cold water immediately after straining.)
-If you’re embracing the garlicky breadcrumbs, now is the time to make them. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the garlic to the pan and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. (Be very careful NOT to burn the garlic—if it starts to brown too quickly, turn down the heat!) Add the panko to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, until it darkens a shade in color. Transfer to a small bowl and briefly set aside.
-Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in the same pot you used to cook the pasta. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes or until nicely browned.
-Add ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the sausage, using a spatula to loosen any delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, pasta, and pesto to the pot, and another ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pot. Fold everything together until well combined. (If the pesto is too thick, add the remaining ¼ cup pasta water to loosen.) Cook for 1-2 minutes or until warmed through.
-Serve the pasta warm topped with a garlicky breadcrumbs and a little extra fresh basil if you like. An extra sprinkling of goat cheese is always an option too…
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