The leaves are starting to change here in Colorado, and it’s our first Fall in this rocky mountain high state. Autumn is my favorite time of the year because the sun is at the perfect angle, the leaves begin the transition from bright summery green to a vibrant orange and yellow, warm spices begin to flood your favorite coffee shop, and books invite readers to go on other-worldly adventures while rain softly patters the windows. This time of year, coffee tastes even more delicious than the hot sweltering summer months. When I was a child, the first cold front would make your face tingle with excitement, and the smell of the furnace being on after a long dormant vacation would fill the house with coziness, while also reminding us that Christmas is just around the corner. I love fall and all the feels that come with this warm hygge season.
This year the Autumnal Equinox was September 22, yesterday. The start of everything pumpkin, family gatherings, scary horror stories, hay rides, and apple cider spiked with brandy (I can’t wait to show you this recipe, but you have to wait until Jack Frost is knocking at your door). Oh wait, there’s more…lights dancing on the walls from holiday scented candles, rainy nights, the wind howling through out the house while you are snuggled warm in your bed, and casseroles. That’s right, I said casseroles. The second on the list after casseroles is pasta. I love pasta.
Raise your hand if you can’t live without pasta. Me! Pasta is a warm hug on a crisp fall day. I would even argue that it’s as comforting as a bowl of warm stew on a bitter cold day. I got the idea to make this Early Fall Pasta when I looked into my fridge wondering what I was going to make for supper one night. The ingredients are simple and cheap on the budget. Asparagus is the only veggie in this dish that could be a bit pricey unless you can find a good deal or haggle your way into a good deal at a local farmer’s market. By the way, don’t ever be afraid to bargain when you are at a farmer’s market. I promise they don’t mind. And most of the ingredients in this pasta are in season. You could totally omit the asparagus and have yourself an in-season early fall pasta. This dish is so versatile.
Let’s start making this delicious oh so yummy dish… Early Fall Pasta.
Before we do anything, we are going to grab all the ingredients and place them on the counter. You will need: Italian sausage, rigatoni pasta, asparagus, kale, cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, onion, garlic, and parsley. Now we are going to rinse the asparagus, kale, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. We want to make sure all the dirt is rinsed off. Dirt does not fit the flavor profile of this meal. Now that everything is rinsed, let’s start chopping. We’re going to cut the bottom ends of the asparagus off because it is a lot easier than snapping each individual spear with your hands. It’s the tomatoes turn to be chopped now. Just cut each tomato in half because we want that vibrant flavor to shine through the pasta. I looove tomatoes. After that, we are going to dice the onions up, and peel the garlic so when it’s time for the garlic we can just grate them into the pan. This also saves time. Why chop garlic when you can grate? I’m telling you it’s the best life decision you could make. I promise. Ok, all that is left is the parsley, and we are going to get a small plate and tear a small amount off so it will be easy to top the finished dish. Yes! Everything is chopped and ready to go!
Now it’s time to cook. We are going to grab an iron skillet or any skillet you have on hand, and turn the heat on to medium-high. We will also need a large pot of water. By filling the pot now with water, and turning the heat on high will save us time later because the water will already be boiling when we need to cook the pasta. Back to the skillet, let that pan warm up and get slightly smoky. Once hot, pour two rounds of olive oil in the pan and cook the sausage half way to done. Put the mushrooms in with the sausage. Do not add salt to the meat and mushrooms yet. If we add salt now, the water in the mushrooms will start to secrete and make the mixture watery. We don’t want that. We want the meat and mushrooms to brown and get almost crispy.
Once the desired brownness is achieved, let’s pour the chopped onions into the pan and cook them until they are translucent. Just like this…
This is the when we are going to add the tomatoes, asparagus, and garlic.
Now we are going to stir the mixture until you can smell the aroma of the garlic. The smell of garlic is literally heaven on earth. Would it be weird to bottle that stuff up and make a perfume out of it? Asking for a friend. At this point, we are going to pour some cooking wine into the pan and let it reduce for a bit. After adding the wine, pour salt into the pot of boiling water. Make sure the water tastes as salty as the sea. This is important because this will add flavor to the pasta. Now we are going to pour the uncooked pasta into the pot of salted water, and cook the pasta as directed on the back of the box. Back to the fragrant pan of veggies.
After the cooking wine has reduced, we are going to grab the kale and put it in the pan. I know, it seems like all the kale will not fit, but if you stir, the kale will begin to wilt a bit, and you will able to put the whole bunch in the skillet.
After the kale has wilted and the whole bunch is in the skillet, it is time to set aside some pasta water, and drain the pasta. Place the pasta back in the large pot, grab the skillet with the “sauce”, and pour the mixture into the pot with the pasta. Now we are going to take that reserved pasta water, and pour some into the pot of pasta. This will marry the flavors together and create a sauce because of the starch in the liquid. Find your favorite bowl, and scoop some of the yummy goodness in to your coveted dish. When I have pasta, I like to top it with grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley and salt and pepper. This combination right here will make your mouth explode. I can’t live without it. Yay, we just made some Early Fall Pasta.
Early Fall Pasta
- 1 lb. Italian Sausage
- 1 lb. Rigatoni Pasta
- 1 pkg. Sliced Mushrooms
- 1 Onion
- 1 pkg. Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 bunch. Asparagus
- 1 bunch. Kale
- About 5 cloves of Garlic
- 1/3 c. Cooking Wine
- 1 bunch. Parsley
- Some Olive Oil
- Some Parmesan Cheese
Before starting to cook, grab a large pot and fill it up with water. Salt the water until it tastes like the sea. Place on high heat. Bring to a boil.
Grab a skillet and place it on medium-high heat. Drizzle some olive oil in the pan. Cook the sausage to half-way done, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes or until both are crispy and brown. Add the chopped onions and cook 3 minutes or until translucent.
This is a good time to take the uncooked pasta and pour it into the boiling water. Cook as described on the box.
Now add the sliced tomatoes, chopped asparagus, and grated garlic. Cook until fragrant. Pour the cooking wine into the pan and let that reduce for about 10 minutes. After reducing, add the chopped kale into the pan. The leaves will start to wilt.
Once the pasta is cooked to desired tenderness. Set aside some pasta water. Drain the pasta. Pour the cooked pasta back into the pot, and immediately grab the skillet of vegetables. Pour the mixture into the pot of pasta. Add the reserved pasta water. Stir and add the chopped parsley. Pick your favorite serving dish, and enjoy! If you wanted to, toasted French bread goes great with this recipe.
Wine pairing: I would pick a delicious oaky Chardonnay. The flavors of the pasta and Chardonnay will pair nicely, and create a smooth finish. I promise you will thank me later.
Like, share, comment and tell me what you think! I would love to hear from you guys. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Just search for Winey Chef, and use #WineyChef when you make your own versions of this recipe. If you have any questions about cooking or wine pairings, just give me a shout out! I’m always here to help, and want you all to be super comfortable in the kitchen.
Welcome to my table, grab your apron, and let’s cook. But first, wine.
Renee Morgan aka Winey Chef