One of the many complicated things about the run-up to Christmas is figuring out what to eat in the days before the holiday. Having preplanned your Christmas eve meal, the last thing you want to do is over-think the simple meals a day or two before your giant gathering.
If you live in my kind of world, you also have lurking in the back of your brain that pre-Xmas meals should probably be on the healthier side, while still avoiding salads for dinner… because we’re not rabbits. Also, salads are pretty boring. And if you take offense to that, it’s not my fault. It’s because – deep down – you’re ashamed you enjoy boring food.
Here’s a simple, healthy(ish), not boring, recipe that will fulfill your need to comforting, delicious food this holiday season.
- 1 lb pasta – cooked and drained (reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, and set it aside)
- 1 lb chicken (or your other favorite) Italian sausage (not in casings)
- 1 bell pepper – diced
- 1 tsp crushed garlic (about 1 clove)
- 1/2 tsp red pepper
- 10 oz fresh kale
- 1 tub (16 oz) of ricotta
- Salt and Pepper
- Cook the pasta in a large pot, according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta, reserving (saving) one cup of the pasta water to use later. Set the big pasta pot aside (you’ll stir everything up in this at the end, so you don’t have to get another big bowl dirty).
- In a large skillet, brown the Italian sausage crumbles over medium heat, until they’re cooked through. Remove them from the pan and place on a paper towel.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the diced bell pepper to the hot oil in the pan, sprinkle in the red pepper flakes, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring every so often, until the bell pepper is softened, and maybe a little browned.
- Return the sausage to the pan, and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently.
- Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan (SIZZLE!!) and place the kale on top. Fold the kale into the mixture. The greens will get darker in color as they begin to wilt and get soft. This may take 3-4 minutes, but don’t worry if it’s not all wilted, stirring it all together should take care of it.
- Dump EVERYTHING (the cooked pasta, the kale and sausage mixture, the ricotta cheese, and the other 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water) into the big pasta pot (or some other giant vessel) and fold it all together. if you want to return it to the heat (if the pasta cooled off too much), now’s the time to do it, just make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn!
When it’s all mixed in, the ricotta gives everything a nice, creamy sauce-like coating without being overpowering, and the kale is green enough to trick you into believing that your second helping can be justified for health reasons.
I would recommend serving it up with a nice glass of wine (for the anti-oxidants) and some garlic bread (for the bread).