Orecchiette with Collard Greens and Mixed Mushrooms
There’s nothing like a big bowl of pasta. While pasta is always gratifying, this is especially true during fall and winter. I love coming home on a chilly day and making this warming and “not entirely bad for you” seasonal dish that is filled with collard greens, mushrooms, Italian sausage and Parmesan. You get all the delicious flavors for a hearty comforting meal with a healthier twist. The ribbon-cut greens add a brightness as well as a healthy aspect to the dish. Collard greens are best when they are in season during winter; they work well with the earthiness of the assorted mushrooms. I like to blanch the collards before adding them to the pasta because it is an efficient way to wilt them evenly. Cooking the pasta in the remaining water adds a little bit of the flavor from the greens to the orecchiette. To make this dish vegetarian, omit the sausage.
1 bunch collard greens, about 9 ounces
1 pound orecchiette pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ pound sweet pork Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium shallot, diced
12 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced (I use crimini and shiitake)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Thoroughly wash the collards then cut into a chiffonade. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over medium heat. Blanch the collards, remove from the water and pat dry then set aside. Reserve the water used to blanch the collards (it will be light green.)
Heat the large pot with the “collard water” and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the water. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with one tablespoon of the olive oil.
Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of the olive oil and heat through. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the sausage, until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible and set the sausage aside, returning the pan to heat. Add the remaining oil and heat through. Add the garlic, shallots and mushrooms to the pan and sauté, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the sausage and mushroom mixture to the pot of cooked pasta, stirring to combine. Add a little of the pasta water if needed. Stir in half of the Parmesan cheese then add the crushed red pepper and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve in warmed pasta bowls topped with the remaining Parmesan.