The Family Dish: My daughter’s ziti


Ziti that feeds a family and makes a mother proud. (Domenica Marchetti)

The recipe is all hers. It’s an incredibly simple, flavor-packed pasta dish that she dreamed up a few weeks ago while we were in the car.

I asked her what made her think of it, and she just kind of shrugged and said it was a recipe she’d had in her head, in one form or another, for a while. That is the great thing about pasta; you can come up with an infinite number of delicious ways to sauce it.

This dish is indeed all about the sauce, but it’s not a saucy sauce. It has no tomato. The primary ingredient is chicken sausage, which Adriana is especially fond of. She wanted cream in the sauce, though not so much to make it heavy or goopy, so she decided to cut the cream with chicken broth. I don’t use oregano all that much in cooking, but Adriana liked the idea of flavoring the sauce with a little bit of the fresh herb, along with garlic. For color, and for nutrition, she added a few handfuls of spinach. And, to finish, some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which brings all the ingredients together nicely.

This is one of those recipes that you can change according to your mood, or the season, or what happens to be in your pantry. Fresh or dried mushrooms would be a nice addition; chopped Swiss chard could be used instead of the spinach.

The recipe is after the jump.

Got a favorite Family Dish to share? E-mail me at domenica@domenicacooks.com.

Ziti With Chicken Sausage, Spinach and Cream

4 to 6 servings

We usually serve this as a one-dish meal. But if you like, you can slice up a couple of tomatoes, season them with olive oil and salt and serve those as a light side dish.

To drink: Try a Falanghina, a dry white from southern Italy.

1 tablespoon salt (for the cooking water, plus more as needed)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, flattened but left whole

12 ounces cooked chicken sausage (3 to 4 links), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick coins

8 to 9 oregano leaves, chopped finely (about 1 teaspoon)

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

5 ounces fresh baby spinach

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound dried ziti or other short, sturdy pasta

1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the 1 tablespoon of salt.

Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the garlic has softened. Do not let it brown or it will turn bitter.

Add the sausage and oregano; cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the sausage pieces are nicely browned. Increase the heat to medium; stir in the broth. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the broth has been reduced by about half.

Stir in the cream; cook for 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to form a sauce. Add the spinach leaves by the handful and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, just until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Cover to keep warm.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water, just until the pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet; toss gently but thoroughly to coat. Discard the garlic, if desired.

Divide among individual shallow rimmed bowls. Spoon equal amounts of any sauce left in the skillet on top of each portion, then sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese over each one.

Serve immediately.

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