Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Italian Sausage and Pasta Stew Is Comfort Food

As summer comes to a close, I start thinking about soups and stews. Nothing beats the comfort of a steaming bowl of soup when there's a chill in the air. I especially like hearty, one-pot meals. Protein, starch and veggies? You got 'em. They're all in there! One of my favorites is made with Italian-style turkey sausage links and fresh tomatoes. Here's what you need to make it:

Olive oil

Garlic cloves, minced (to your taste; I like a LOT of garlic)

1 med. Onion, rough cut

8 oz. (.5 lbs) spoon-friendly pasta

1 pkg. Italian-style turkey sausages

3 - 4 c. chicken broth (I use organic low sodium broth)

12 large roma tomatoes (enough for about 6 cups of puree)

2 roasted red peppers, cut in strips

2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

Several fresh basil leaves, chopped or cut in strips

1 pkg. baby spoon spinach

Parmesan cheese

(makes about 6 large servings)

In the bottom of a wok frying pan or stock pot, sauté the minced garlic and onion in a small amount of olive oil until the onion turns soft and translucent. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. I like to use pasta shapes that fit well in a soup spoon, like mezze penne or mini farfalle.

Take about 1 cup of the chicken broth and put it in a sauté pan with the turkey sausage. Turn the heat up until the broth bubbles, then reduce the heat to simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Covering the pan will help the sausage cook quickly.

Cut the tomatoes into chunks (do not peel the tomatoes!) and puree in a food processor. Add the tomato puree to the onions and garlic along with the remaining chicken broth. Use less chicken broth for a thicker stew or add more for a thinner consistency. Bring this mixture to a simmer.

When the turkey links are done and have cooled enough to handle, slice them into 1/4" pieces. Add the sliced turkey sausage and roasted red peppers to the tomato sauce. Add some white balsamic vinegar to your taste (I like a lot of bite, so I use more). Also add the strips of basil at this point.

By now, the pasta has cooked and been drained. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture. Right before serving, stir in the spoon spinach. When the spinach wilts and turns bright green, it's ready to go. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with a tablespoon or so of parmesan cheese.

Yum! Dinner in one bowl, steaming hot, with the parmesan melting into the stew, all for about 400 calories.

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