Orecchiette with Sausage, Leeks, and Mushrooms

Pasta with Sausage, Leeks, and Mushrooms

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Ryn challenged me earlier this year to make some recipes from my collection of cookbooks that I have never made before. This is my adaptation of a recipe from the “Share” cookbook from Chris Santos, chef/founder of Beauty & Essex restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This is an awesome recipe. I like to use orecchiette pasta for this dish and I learned something about orecchiette pasta when I made it. Orecchiette must have some visible texture to the dried pasta. (I wish I had taken a picture of the pasta before I cooked it.) I have struggled with orecchiette in the past when the texture of the dried pasta is smooth and the orecchiette just stick to one another. Not good eats! The better quality textured orecchiette worked much better.

Ingredients

  • 2 large leeks

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced from root to tip of the onion

  • 10 ounces cremini (or white button) mushrooms, sliced

  • 3/4 – 1 pound uncooked sausage (could be Italian, spicy, turkey, or chicken)

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha/ hot sauce, optional

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta (or any small shell or tube shape)

Directions

  • Prepare the leeks by cutting off the root ends and the dark green part of the leaves. Cut the leeks in half, lengthwise. Place the leeks with the root ends down in a tall glass or container filled with cold water. You want at least 5 to 6 inches of the leeks to be in the water. Allow the leeks to sit in the water for 5 to 10 minutes. The sand and grit that tends to become trapped in the layers of the leeks while they grow will sink down to the bottom of the glass container. You will see the grit at the bottom of the glass as the leeks sit. Some leeks have a lot of grit; others have very little. After the leeks have soaked, thinly slice them cross-wise into half rounds. You should have about two cups of sliced leeks.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are light brown and very tender, about 18 minutes. When the leeks are almost finished cooking, stir the garlic in with the leeks and continue cooking for about 2 more minutes. Transfer the leek and garlic mixture to a large serving bowl.
  • Using the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms give off their juices and are beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer these vegetables to the same bowl with the leek mixture.
  • Add the sausage to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage, stirring occasionally and breaking it up with your spoon until browned, about 7 minutes. Return the vegetable mixture and the leeks to the skillet with the sausage. Add the soy sauce and stir until the soy sauce evaporates, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and increase the heat to high. Bring the broth to a boil while you stir and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the broth has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and Sriracha/hot sauce (if using), bring back to the boil and cook until the sauce has reduced half and coats a wooden spoon, 7 – 10 more minutes. During the last few minutes, stir in the basil. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  • While you work on building and reducing the sauce, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well. Return the pasta to the cooking pot.
  • Add the sauce and remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to the pasta and toss well, letting the butter melt into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a little more chopped basil. Serve immediately.
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