Sausage Mushroom Alfredo Pasta

20140302_192956[1]This is an easy dish that you can prepare in as much time as it takes to cook the pasta. It calls for a jar of store-bought alfredo sauce, something I’m embarrassed to say that I used — but wow, does it make things simple. That means it’s a great dish to make on a weeknight. You could also use a homemade alfredo sauce on a night when you have more time. One tip: Chop the vegetables and grate the cheese as you wait for the pasta water to boil.

Serves 6

1 large leek, white and pale green part only, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 links mild Italian pork sausage (8 oz.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 oz. rigatoni pasta
8 oz. sliced baby Portobello mushrooms (use white if they aren’t available)
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic alfredo sauce
2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated

Start boiling the water for the pasta and cook as directed on the box. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and grate the cheese, then set aside. Remove the sausage casings by cutting the links in half lengthwise (butterfly them), then turning the sausage over and peeling the casings away.

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat, until browned and no longer pink. Remove to a bowl and add remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan, then add mushrooms and leeks. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the wine or broth; simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced by half.

Stir in alfredo sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in pasta and sausage and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

The recipe is adapted from one I found at Publix.

Thumbprint Cookies

These are classic cookies distinguished by big jam-filled circles in the middle. They are cute for children, and you can use different types of jam for a variety of colors, but they’re also nice “grown-up” cookies that go really well with tea or coffee. The cookies themselves are dry and crumbly, which sets off the jam very well.

I think these taste best a day or two after baking. A note about the filling: Avoid jelly, as it doesn’t melt enough to fill the center. And orange marmalade is especially delicious — the slight bitterness is wonderful with the sweetness of the cookie.

Makes about 40

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2/3 cup jam (try to use seedless varieties)

Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixture, using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, then add the flour and mix until just combined.

Put flour on your hands and pinch off pieces of dough, then roll them around with your fingers to make 1-inch balls. Space them 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. With a floured thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, then fill it with 1/2 tsp. of jam. Be careful not to get jam anywhere except in the center of the cookie.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden around the bottoms. Remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

Three-Ingredient Tortellini Soup

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry people)

This recipe may be the easiest one I’ve yet posted. All you need are:
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 lbs. spinach and cheese tortellini, fresh or frozen
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach, loosely packed

Bring the chicken broth to a boil, then cook the tortellini according to package directions, Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach. Cook another 1 or 2 minutes, then take off the heat and serve with black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

See? A wonderful easy meal.