Cheesy Pasta with Sausage & Broccolini
Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot of talking to sell us on a bowl of shells tossed with tender broccolini, chunks of Italian sausage, and a sage-infused cream sauce. But this dish is extra appealing because it’s dead easy to throw together on a weeknight — and who doesn’t love a nicely balanced, one-bowl meal that takes just two pots and a little over a half an hour to make? Also: cheese.
The secret to this little beauty is to make the most of those two pots. First of all, you’re going to parboil the broccolini with the pasta. It goes in the cooking water for the last two minutes of cooking, so it’s still bright green and a little al dente when you drain it with the noodles. Second, you’re going to brown the sausage in a cast-iron skillet with some garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes — and then swirl the cream and fontina (loads of it) through the sausage to make the sauce. Once you add the pasta, the whole skillet slides under the broiler, neat and tidy, no extra baking pan to wash. Huzzah.
Our kids love this dish, from its lightly charred sage leaves to its ooey-gooey melted cheese middle. Even the broccolini (thank you, fontina!) squeaks by them. We like how the garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes infuse all that creaminess with some grown-up savory depth — and a little tiny bit of heat. It goes down nice with a crisp glass of J Vineyards Pinot Gris.
Kosher salt, to taste
¼ cup, plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb Gelson’s sweet or hot Italian ground sausage
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp chopped Gelson’s organic sage leaves, plus 10 whole leaves, divided
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups half-and-half
12 oz fontina cheese, grated (about 4 ½ cups)
1 lb conchiglie pasta
1 bunch broccolini, with ends cut off
Place oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to broil. Heat a large pot of water over high heat. Add several tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil (this is for your pasta).
Heat a deep, large, ovenproof skillet, over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the sausage to the skillet. Break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until the sausage is browned, about 4 minutes. Stir a couple of times and continue to cook, undisturbed again, until the sausage is fully cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain the fat from the sausage.
Add the garlic, chopped sage, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the half-and-half and simmer until the sauce is thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
Gradually add about ⅔ of the fontina, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thick and the cheese is completely melted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste, and remove it from the heat.
Meanwhile, cook pasta for 2 minutes less than the package instructions call for, add the broccolini, and cook for 2 more minutes, until the pasta and veggies are al dente. Drain in a colander and shake several times to remove excess water. Return the pasta and broccolini to the empty pasta pot.
Add the cheesy sausage mixture to the pasta. Stir until the pasta and broccolini are coated in sauce, then transfer everything back to the skillet.
In a small bowl, toss the whole sage leaves with the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Top the pasta with the remaining cheese and the sage oil. Broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes (depending on the strength of your broiler).
Let the pasta cool for a minute or two before serving.
Recipe adapted from: Bon Appétit