Editor's note:?Kelly Smith is filling in for Beky Davis this week.
If there's one thing I love to cook and eat, it's pasta. Maybe it's because of all those SpaghettiOs I devoured while growing up.
Or maybe it was the giant plates of pasta that became a lunchtime staple before cross country meets.
The finished pasta dish is attractively displayed and ready to eat. BELOW:?The greens are added to the mix.
Regardless, eating pasta always comes easy.
And for me, so does cooking.
My mom has worked in food service all her life, and I always marveled at the way she could whip up a delicious dish from leftovers, entertain for 20 without a hitch, or just make a tasty, hearty meal for our family during the week.
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 bundle arugula
Feta cheese, crumbled
Cook the linguine to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain.
Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add sausage, crumble and brown about five minutes. Do not drain.
Add garlic and toss for an additional one to two minutes.
Add tomatoes and cover, about 10 minutes. Gently stir every few minutes.
Once tomatoes have burst, add pasta, arugula, and cooking water (to loosen sauce). Gently stir ingredients together. Cover for an additional one to two minutes to allow greens to cook down. Season and top as desired.
She truly is a star in the kitchen. And after all these years of watching her, I am picking up on some of her talent.
I started doing a lot of my own cooking my senior year of college, when I had my first off-campus house with a full kitchen.
Cooking was a relief after a long day of classes, and I enjoyed making and experimenting with meals for my two roommates.
I've carried that on now that I've graduated, but with one big change.
I'm now lactose intolerant and can't cook with all the cream, cheese, milk and good stuff that I used to.
And so my eating habits cycle back to pasta.
Pasta is an easy way to make a filling, dairy-free meal, since it can be paired so easily with non-dairy ingredients like meats and vegetables.
I've made many delicious pasta dishes in the past, but this one, which I've adapted from Rachael Ray, has become one of my favorites. It takes just two pans and a few simple, healthy ingredients to make a dish that's as flavorful and satisfying as its cheese-laden counterparts.
The recipe starts with fresh, sweet Italian sausage. Ground sausage works best, but if all your market carries are sausage patties, you can easily break them up with a potato masher or other utensil.
Next are the tomatoes. The only rule to follow is that they be small and super sweet. Cherry and grape tomatoes are fine. You can purchase them pre-packaged, on-the-vine, or in sleeves.
My favorite variety is on-the-vine, which seem to make for a sweeter, richer sauce.
Last come the greens. Arugula is best, but I have used escarole in a pinch. Don't choose lettuce. It gets too soggy and leaves a bitter taste in the dish.
When cooked down with the sausage, the tomatoes gently burst to create a light but flavorful sauce just thick enough to stick to the pasta. The greens add appropriate crunch and color.
And if you still can't resist the cheese, go ahead and add some to the top. I choose feta, mixing a little Greek with this mostly Italian dish. The feta has a cool creaminess that cuts nicely into the acidity of the tomatoes and creates a perfect finish.
No need to add a side dish. This meal is healthy, filling and speaks for itself. Enjoy!