From her bright and eclectic wardrobe to her taste in male co-stars, Mindy Kaling is making all of the right life choices. Naturally, when she proclaimed Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard Orecchiette from L.A. eatery Osteria Mozza as her favorite pasta, I had to follow suit. Since I couldn’t justify a six-hour drive to SoCal for the dish, I whipped it up at home — with a few healthy tweaks.
I subbed in whole wheat bow tie pasta for the orecchiette, which pleased my picky 3-year-old, because well, bow ties. Of course whole wheat pasta packs a bit more nutrition, but I also just love the nutty character it adds. Additionally to keep things light, I omitted the cheese and breadcrumbs. You won’t miss them! After sautéing the Swiss chard with garlic and chiles, the fennel sausage tempers that heat with a tinge of sweetness, and the paprika rounds it all out with a bold smoky flavor.
We are sticklers about our toddler not turning into one of those impossible-to-please eaters, so we always have him try at least one bite of whatever we’re serving. While this dish may sound a bit fancy for your little eaters, rest assured chowing down on this pasta didn’t require much convincing. This will definitely make its way into our weeknight rotation. Thanks to Mindy Kaling for delivering yet again.
Fennel Sausage and Swiss Chard Pasta
Makes: 4 servings
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow Spanish onion, thinly sliced
- 12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 dried arbol chiles
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, roughly torn apart
- 3/4 pound fennel sausage
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 12 ounces whole wheat bow tie pasta
- Fresh herbs of your choice (optional garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the onion, garlic, and chiles, and season with salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until onion slices are translucent, then turn the heat to medium and continue sweating the onion for about 10 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water to the pan as needed to prevent browning.
- Add the chard leaves, season with salt, and fold the leaves in with the onion for 1 or 2 minutes to wilt them slightly. (The original recipe has you adding the chard in waves, but I dumped mine in all at once with great results. Keep it simple, I say.) Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chard leaves are very dark green and the onion and leaves are one soft, homogenous mixture. Pour them onto a cutting board and chop, until the vegetables are fine — to the point of being almost pureed.
- To make the sauce, heat a sauté pan over high heat for about 2 minutes until it’s very hot. Add the sausage to the pan and cook it undisturbed for about 2 minutes, until the meat is seared. Stir the meat and cook for another 4 minutes, breaking it into pea-sized pieces, until it is cooked through. Add the chopped chard and cook for 2-3 minutes to warm it through, stirring the chard into the sausage as it cooks. (The original recipe calls for aleppo pepper, but after scouring several grocery stores for the elusive spice, I gave up and improvised using cayenne for heat and paprika for smokiness. You probably already have both of these in your spice cabinet, and it turned out delicious, so win-win.) Sprinkle the cayenne pepper and paprika over the chard and sausage, add the chicken stock, and cook the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to bring the ingredients together. Add the butter, stir until it melts, and turn off the heat while you cook the pasta.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop the pasta into the boiling water, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. About 1 minute before the pasta is done, place the sauce over high heat. Lift the pasta out of the cooking water or drain it and immediately add it to the pan with the sauce. Cook the pasta with the sauce together for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the sauce thickens. Serve sprinkled with fresh herbs.