Eilene’s friends are coming over for dinner after a long hike. Wife Jan is still at Burning Man and while she would find this dish “too rich” the kids will like it. While I could have made my own Alfredo sauce I decided to try a short cut. I like to make the dishes that I make for Eilene’s friends one dish meals—protein, starch, and vegetables all in one recipe.
After Dinner Note: While I used only one bag of spinach in making this dish, Eilene though I should have doubled it up.
Karl’s Sausage and Spinach Alfredo
1 lb. rotini pasta
½ white onion, diced
Pinch Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 bags (6-12 oz.) baby spinach
Pinch black pepper
1 bottle (16.9 oz.) Trader Giotto’s Alfredo Sauce
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Tip: Salting the water or not is a personal choice. We try to keep out salt intake down, because so many other products contain so much.
2. Stir in the pasta and simmer it for 7-8 minutes, until al dente.
Tip: Stir the pasta several times to make sure that it is not “clumping” or sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Note: While fettuccine is the traditional pasta to use with Alfredo sauce, I like using rotini because the nooks and crannies both hold more sauce and the ridges also prevent the pasta from forming a solid mass after it starts to cools down.
3. Scoop the pasta out of the pot and into a colander and reserve the boiling water.
Tip: Many cooks boil their pasta at the same time they make their sauce. The timing here can be a bit tricky—if you get distracted, your pasta can turn out overdone and mushy while you are focused on your sauce. One way to avoid this is to cook your pasta to a perfect al dente first. This solution creates its own problems, in that the pasta will get cold and clump together into a solid block. By keeping the boiling water hot, you may quickly reheat and un-clump the pasta before mixing it with the sauce.
Note: While you are boiling the pasta much of the water in the pot will have been absorbed into the pasta or evaporated from the pot. Add a bit more to refresh the water level.
4. Form the pork into one large patty and, in a large sauté pan, fry it on both sides until well browned.
Tip: It is not important, at this point, for the meat to be cooked all the way through—you will be cooking it some more later on.
5. Transfer the meat to a plate to cool.
Note: When the sausage has cooled enough to handle, use some forks to break the patty apart into the size you like—you may break it up into fine bits or leave it as large, almost-meatball-sized pieces.
6. Without cleaning the pot, add the onions and salt.
7. Sauté the onions until just starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
Tip: Use the moisture released by the onions to deglaze the pot.
Note: If the onions do not release enough liquid, add a splash of sherry to remove the fond from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
8. Pull the onions to the sides of the and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about one minute.
9. Add the spinach to the pan and continue sautéing until the spinach has mostly wilted.
Tip: You may speed this process by adding a tablespoon of water to the pan and putting on a lid to steam the spinach briefly.
Note: If you steam the spinach, remove the lid and let any excess liquid evaporate before adding your sauce.
10. Add your pepper, sausage bits, and Alfredo sauce to the pan.
Tip: Return the pasta to its hot water for 30-40 seconds at this point.
11. Stir to mix the sauce into the other ingredients.
12. Drain your pasta through the colander and return it to its boiling pot.
13. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat the pasta.
14. Serve immediately.