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the worst: those nights when you have no food in your fridge (or at least, no food that you feel like eating). those nights where you stand in front of your fridge, eying the avocado that’s probably gone bad by now, the parmesan cheese that’s begging to be grated, the mint that was supposed to end up in a wheatberry salad a few days ago. everyone has those nights – where you just can’t figure out what to do with what you’ve got in your fridge.

the other night, i had one of those nights. and i made this. and thankfully, it was delicious. hearty, interesting – a party in my mouth, really – and loaded with carbs. i mean, who doesn’t love carbs? i should start running marathons so i can carbo-load with reckless abandon. i bought a bunch of italian sausages on a whim a few months ago at my local organic grocery store, thinking i’d find something to do with them. i was bored of chicken and red meat and even my beloved tofu, so sausages it was. let it be known, sausages gross me out. that whole, jam a bunch of squished up meat and lord knows what else into a gross wrapper that kind of reminds me of a condom thing…not really my cup of tea. BUT, sausages, when out of their condom, are delicious. especially when you break them up and saute them with garlic and onions and other yummy things that make your kitchen smell like good ol’ rachael ray came to dinner.

so i bought the sausages a few months ago, and used three out of six to make a weird lentil dish that i probably won’t attempt again. it sounded good in my head, but it was just so-so in my mouth. i decided to freeze the other three sausages until inspiration struck.

fast forward to tuesday night, when i needed a dinner and didn’t really want to eat anything i had. LIGHTBULB MOMENT! i had sausages! and since there’s no legitimate sausage in my life right now to speak of (did i go too far?), i figured i’d whip those babies out and make them into something yummy. and that i did! i sauted them with a lil bit of garlic, threw in some sliced red onions and some tomato paste, deglazed the pan with a little bit of my dear friend white wine, then threw in fresh tomatoes and a bit more wine. then i threw the whole thing over a batch of penne, called it a sauce, and topped it with some fresh mint (a stroke of genius, might i add – could have been oh so wrong but somehow, it tasted oh so right!). et voila, a meal! in under 30 minutes, might i add.

so, want to make it for yourself? you do, it’s good. you can use any sausages, really (italian sausage, flavored sausage, chicken sausage) – though i wouldn’t recommend fake vegetarian ones. veggie peeps, this recipe ain’t for you. go eat some tofu.

The Recipe

Makes enough for two with a little bit left over for lunch.

1/2 box of penne or the pasta of your choice

3 sausages, cut out of their little holding cells and ready to be broken up

3 gloves of garlic, diced

1/2 red onion, sliced

olive oil, for the pan

1 beefsteak tomato, cut up into large chunks

3 tbsp tomato paste (use your judgement – you can add more if you want a more saucy sauce)

1/4 cup white wine

3 tsp fresh mint, chopped

grated parmesan cheese (though romano would be good too)

to make, put a pot of water up to boil for your pasta. meanwhile, throw a bit of oil into a skillet and toss the sausages in there. if you can handle touching the raw meat with your fingers, break the sausages up into bits – much like you would with chop meat if you were making tacos. if you can’t handle touching the sausages, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. let cook until browned, about 5 minutes. while the meat is cooking, slice your onion and garlic and tomatoes. once meat is browned, add garlic and onion and tomato paste. turn your burner down to low. cook for a few minutes, until the onions wilt and the tomato paste is mixed in. add wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet to get up all the good stuff at the bottom. i love a good wine sizzle, don’t you?

your water should be boiling by now. add your pasta and throw a dash of olive oil in the pot. i learned this trick from rachael ray, and it’s a lifesaver. your pasta will never stick together again! GENIUS. i love that woman. and her husband is in a band that i once saw open up for hanson, so there’s that.

while pasta is cooking, turn your burner on the meat up to medium and add your tomatoes. feel free to salt and pepper your dish here, or add some red pepper flakes. my sausages were spicy, so i didn’t need the extra kick. but if your sausages are just so-so, a pinch of red pepper flakes will work wonders in taste department. once the tomatoes have wilted down, remove the skillet from heat. set aside.

drain pasta and reserve a tiny bit of pasta water. mmm, starchy goodness. divy up pasta into two bowls and top with sausage mixture. sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and top with the chopped mint. now, dig in and try and tell me this stuff ain’t GOOD.

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before you go judging me on this wacky title, i’ll tell you upfront: i didn’t make it up, not really. it’s my take on mario batali’s fusili alla crazy bastard, a recipe i stumbled upon earlier this week while doing foodie research for a freelance client of mine. batali’s recipe calls for beet greens, which i’ve never even heard of, and goat cheese, which i didn’t have on hand. but that’s the fun thing about cooking – you can swap, and nothing bad will happen! usually, at least. my mom’s cooking “experiments” led to some not so delicious dinners as a child (though she always loved what she whipped up, even if it meant putting lentils where lentils most definitely did not belong). with baking, which is more of a science, precision is everything. you can’t just swap one ingredient for another and hope for the best. with cooking, however, swapping and playing it by ear is part of the magic. if you’ve got yummy ingredients, and you season them well, it’s highly likely that the end result will always be a party in your mouth.

SO. penne all crazy bitch. when i got home tonight, after a long afternoon of day drinking (which, let’s face it, was a bit hard on my 85 year old grandma soul), all i wanted to do was call up the sushi place on the corner and place an order for two avocado rolls and one sweet potato tempura roll with a side of spicy mayo. but the little angel on my shoulder chimed in…”sarah, you’re unemployed. no ordering sushi. cook something, girl. you didn’t start this blog for nothing!” so, off to pinterest i went (my recipes board is where i turn when i can’t figure out what on earth to cook). and there was fusili alla crazy bastard. and i took one look at that bowl o’ delicious and thought, alright, that’s it. that’s what i’m making tonight.

except that i didn’t have fusili, only penne. and i had no goat cheese, only grated romano. and of course, no beet greens, because let’s be honest, i wouldn’t know a beet green if it smacked me in the face. is it just the greens portion of beets? a quick google search confirms that yes, it is. what i did have, however, was garlic and red pepper and spring greens and tomatoes, and a box of penne. and there’s really no way those ingredients can come together and NOT taste good. so i amended batali’s recipe to match my ingredients. i switched the beet greens for spring mix (i buy the bagged stuff at trader joe’s. can’t go wrong for $1.99), the cherry tomatoes for a sliced and diced beefsteak, the goat cheese for romano, and added mushrooms – because why not? everything is better with shrooms, as the druggies of the world can tell you. 

since i made so many changes, i figured my dish needed a different name. and as i’m a crazy bitch, not a crazy bastard…well, you get the jist. so, without further adieu, penne alla crazy bitch.

The Recipe (an adaptation of this one)

1/2 cup of walnuts

two large tomatoes, sliced and diced

1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, sliced

2-3 handfuls of spring greens/greens of your choice

Three cloves of garlic, chopped

Olive oil

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 box pasta of your choice

1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

preheat oven to 350. spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7 minutes. remove from oven, and chop. set aside. increase oven temperature to 450. toss diced tomatoes and mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast in oven for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. add pasta and cook according to directions. while pasta is cooking, remove roasted tomatoes and mushrooms from the oven. saute garlic with a little bit of olive oil in a large pan until golden brown. add tomato and mushroom mixture to pan and toss. add spring greens and red pepper and cook until greens are just wilted, about three minutes.

drain pasta, and add it to vegetable mixture. toss a few times heat to marry the sauce and the pasta. remove from heat, and divy up dish into bowls. top with cheese of your choice, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve.

HELLO GORGEOUS. this dish is super delish, easy to make (20 minutes tops), and feels way fancier than it really is. plus, even my cat penny wanted a bite, and girlfriend has great taste* – so you know this stuff is good.

* i think anything would taste better than the canned cat food she eats.