A simple, hearty, all-in-one pasta dish with main flavors of sausage, garlic, and fresh pepper. Mushrooms, onion, and wilted greens round out the vegetables. Feel free to use whichever dark leafy green you like. Could easily be a good vegetarian meal or side dish if you omit the meat.
1 pound whole wheat pasta, like penne or farfalle
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces button (or portabella) mushrooms, sliced
greens: 1 bunch chard (about 1 pound), stems removed and diced, leaves cut into ribbons
OR 1 bunch kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped
OR 1 bunch rapini, stalks removed and discarded, leaves and florets chopped
2 sausage links (8 ounces), sliced, or chopped ham (optional)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
3 ounces cream cheese, marscapone, or other soft creamy cheese
1/2 cup pasta water, saved from cooking pasta
freshly cracked black pepper
optional: red pepper flakes
Cook the pasta in a large amount of boiling water with a good
palm-ful of salt. Just before draining, use a measuring cup to dip out
about a half cup of the starchy pasta water, and set this aside.
If using meat, saute it over medium-high heat until brown and crispy, set aside.
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over
medium-high heat . Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until the
onion is softened and translucent. Add the mushrooms and another pinch
of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, the liquid
has boiled away, and the mushrooms are turning golden.
Stir in the diced chard stems and the sausage. Cook until the stems are
softened and the sausage is warmed through.
Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic. Cook just until the garlic is fragrant,
then stir it into the rest of the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium
and stir in the chard leaves. Continue stirring frequently until the
leaves are bright green and wilted.
Stir in the cooked pasta and the cream cheese. When the cheese has
melted, pour in half of the reserved cooking water to make a creamy
sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, pour in the remaining pasta water a
little at a time.
Grind the fresh pepper right over the pasta. Don't be shy! Taste as
you go to gauge how peppery the pasta has become and how you like it.
Season with additional salt, if desired.
Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to one week.