I've started this blog post about half a dozen times. Every time I get going with it, I go back and erase it because it doesn't do the subject justice. It's trite and isn't saying what I want it to. I've gotten self conscious about it and just scrapped the whole thing. Here I am again trying to put "pen to paper"...and this time, I'm just going to let the words come out how they want to.
As some of you know, I lost my mom about a year and a half ago. To say that I've had a difficult time with it would be an understatement. It's only been recently that I have admitted to myself that some days...the grief I feel is too much to bear...and have started seeking grief counseling. We women think we can do it all - something I know many of us feel. At the end of the day, however...it really is okay to say that you need help, especially when it comes to sorrow, grief and matter of the heart.
In going through all of this - and all of the memories that continue to live on - people speak so often of my mom's cooking. She was quite gifted at it, despite a lack of formal training. She was so good at just winging it - something I wish I had more courage at (both in the kitchen and in real life). She often made up recipes and dishes on the fly. Most of those dishes made their way through one of the kitchens of the restaurants I grew up in. My parents were in the business in one way or another for about 30 years...so that tells you how much winging it she did in addition to raising a daughter, caring for her husband, and trying to live day to day. I look back on it with wonder. I really do.
When I ran across the blog event that Chris at MeleCotte is hosting, I really wanted to take part. It's called Apples and Thyme, and its a tribute to mothers and grandmothers created by Vanielje Kitchen and The Passionate Palate. It's been a while since I spoke about my mom - the soup challenge was really the last time. I have tried to honor her presence in my life and my career in any way I can, so this event gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I went hunting for a photo of my mom in the kitchen...and tears have welled up so many times at the realization that I don't have one. Most of my fondest times I shared with my mom was over food or cooking - and I don't have one damn photo of it.
In an effort to remedy that, I am taking part in the event and making a recipe that was a favorite in my house growing up - a total comfort food dish. Since there was so much winging it, there aren't a lot of hard copies of recipes from her dishes, either. So...I'm winging it...and trying to create this pasta dish. I can only say that it's sort of a Midwest simple version of Sausage and Orecchiette. She used sliced Italian Sausage and frozen broccoli with shell shaped pasta. My version has crumbled Italian sausage, quickly blanched fresh broccoli, and penne. It's a great dish and a wonderful and easy way to document my mom in the kitchen, even if it's only in spirit.
Sausage and Broccoli Pasta - serves 4 as medium sized entree portions
- 1 lb. bulk roll Italian sausage or link style, removed from casings
- 1 16 oz. box penne or shell shaped pasta - I use Dreamfield's Penne
- 12 oz. fresh broccoli - rinsed, dried and cut into florets
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon to use for zest
- 1 tsp. dried red chili flakes
- fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
- Fill large pasta pot with water and heat until water is at rolling boil. Add pasta to water and cook according to product directions. About 3 minutes before pasta is done, add the broccoli florets. They will blanche quickly in the pasta water. When pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, crumble sausage in a large skillet into large chunks and begin to brown. Don't break the pieces up too small or they will disintegrate. Let them brown and caramelize in the pan. When thoroughly browned and cooked through, DO NOT DRAIN THE FAT. This is your sauce.
- Pour cooked and drained pasta & broccoli back into the pasta pot and add the sausage, including the oil and such at the bottom of the skillet. Drizzle the mixture with the teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and mix thoroughly. If the pasta is too dry for your liking, add olive oil as desired. Sprinkle red chili flakes on pasta. Zest lemon over pasta and add salt and pepper to taste then mix all the ingredients together one last time. Grate Parmesan over the pasta before serving. Serve immediately.