This is a strange and dark time for all of us. I suspect we all have our own ways of coping with anxiety and fear during the long hours at home.
I once read a quote from someone who said that she “inherited worry along with the family silver.” Well, that is me. But I have found solace in my kitchen, the place I retreat to for most of my waking hours. I putter around, read favorite cookbooks over and over, and recall happy times with family and friends.
We have gotten some “takeout” from our favorite Harrisburg restaurants, hoping that it helps them just a little bit. We will continue to do so. But mostly I have been cooking, often with a combination of what I have stashed in the freezer and what I snatched off the shelves at the grocery store. We have also made brief trips to the farmers market late on Friday afternoons. But my obsessive-compulsive meal planning has gone out the window.
I have been looking for recipes that call for simple ingredients, fewer ingredients and those that result in leftovers for lunch. I found a pasta recipe from chef and cookbook author, Lidia Bastianich, that seemed perfect. It is called “farfalle della bisnonna” or bowties with cabbage and meat sauce.
I had most of the ingredients on hand but liked it because so many substitutions are possible. Any type of sausage or ground meat will work, as will dried thyme instead of fresh, and regular cabbage instead of Savoy cabbage, which the recipe calls for. It was delicious for dinner and for several lunches, as well.
Bowties with Cabbage and Meat Sauce
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing
- 1 small onion, cut into chunks
- 1 medium carrot, cut into chunks
- 1 celery stalk, cut into chunks
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ head Savoy (or any) cabbage, cored and shredded
- 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 pound bowtie pasta (farfalle)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan or grana Padano cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large deep skillet and heat gently over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon until browned, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, celery and thyme in a food processor and pulse to make a chunky paste. (You could use a blender or an immersion blender with the chopping attachment. Or you could even chop the vegetables finely by hand.)
- Once the sausage is browned, add the vegetable paste to the skillet and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with the dried pepper flakes. (Add a lot if you like it hot and spicy.)
- Make an empty spot in the pan with a spoon and add the tomato paste. Let it “toast” for a minute or two and then stir it into the vegetables.
- Pour in the white wine and let it simmer until almost reduced, about 3 minutes.
- Add the shredded cabbage and the broth and cook, covered, until the cabbage is wilted, about 20 minutes.
- Uncover to thicken the sauce until the cabbage is wilted, about 10 more minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- When the bowtie noodles are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon or “spider” and add them directly to the sausage mixture.
- Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a little extra broth if necessary.
- Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle with the cheese, and serve.
This is a healthy and comforting dish. You can use it as a “template” of sorts to change it, using cubed chicken or pork instead of sausage. If there is no cabbage stashed in the fridge, maybe you have some broccoli. The “process” will be the same.
I will continue to cook in these sad times. But many days I dream of our “date nights” in Harrisburg: dinner at Note Bistro and Wine Bar with Daniel making the most beautiful martinis in town; eating Qui Qui Musarra’s wonderful fish soup at Mangia Qui; and chatting with Tyler at Café Fresco’s crowded bar. I miss afternoon coffee at Little Amp’s outdoor tables at 2nd and State streets on warm days. These, and many others, are the places that make Harrisburg so special. I am praying for all of them that we see them “on the other side.”