Recipe: Fettuccine and Sweet Italian Sausage in a Parmesan-Leek Sauce

I saw a recipe for Winter Pasta with Chorizo while browsing through recipes on Tastespotting. Intrigued by the use of leeks and cabbage in a sort of pesto-cream sauce hybrid, I saved it to my “Recipes to Try” Pinterest board and decided yesterday, a drizzly, chilly Valentine’s Day, would be the ideal day for this warm, wintry pasta dish. I made homemade fettuccine (with help from my pasta maker) and tweaked the ingredients just a bit to make it just right, and the result was a delicious, light but flavorful pasta dish, permeated with the delicate, onion-y taste of the leeks and the nutty, slightly tangy flavor of Parmesan cheese. Sweet Italian sausage is packed with flavor and just a touch of heat, and it paired well with the creamy sauce and medium-width pasta noodles.

Yields: 4 servings
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Food processor

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, washed/soaked with the tops cut off, cut into big pieces (peel apart the layers of the leek and soak them in a large bowl—leeks are incredibly dirty, so they need to soak to get clean)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 cabbage leaves, removed from stalk and washed or two small handfuls of pre-shredded cabbage (I found a bag of shredded cabbage for coleslaw, with no other veggies included)
  • 3 tbsp. oregano leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1-4 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2-3 links (casings removed) or approx. 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, pulled into small pieces 
  • Olive oil and butter, for cooking the sausage
  • 8-12 oz. fettuccine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the leeks and garlic and cook them for 3-4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes—everything will be tender when done. Use a slotted spoon to quickly remove the leeks, cabbage, and garlic when they’re done cooking, and put them in a food processor. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, Parmesan, oregano leaves, and heavy cream to the food processor and pulse to blend. Add salt, pepper, and white pepper, to taste. Once blended (the mixture won’t be completely smoothe—it’ll have a little texture to it), transfer it to a medium saucepan and heat over low heat. While the sauce is cooking, heat a little olive oil and about a tbsp. of butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat, then add the sausage and cook until browned and cooked through. While the sausage is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the fettuccine according to package instructions, then drain and return to the pot. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to combine, then add the cooked sausage and toss to combine. Serve with a little Parmesan cheese and fresh oregano.
The sauce is the star of this dish—that soft onion-y flavor of the leeks, the fresh oregano, nutty Parmesan, and earthy cabbage create a unique flavor and texture that’s sort of like a creamy, light pesto, or a textured cream sauce. Sweet Italian sausage adds texture and more flavor to the dish and fettuccine is the prefect pasta for this meal. The sauce can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge up to a few hours before use, and the meal reheats wonderfully.
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