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Baked Pasta with Dandelion Greens & Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 3 chicken-fennel or other mild sausages
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, about 12 oz., tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and reduce the heat to medium. Stir once or twice and cook until the pasta al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain well and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, sprinkle with the 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper, and stir to mix well.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and sauté, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, add the dandelion greens to the pan and sauté over medium-high heat until tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Cut the sausages into 1-inch slices and add to the pasta in the baking dish, then add the greens and pan juices. Toss and stir until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Spoon the ricotta onto the pasta and spread it evenly over the top.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When it foams, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the toasted crumbs evenly over the ricotta.

Bake until the cheese is lightly browned around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot, directly from the baking dish. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eating by Color, by Georgeanne Brennan, Dana Jacobi & Annabel Langbein (Oxmoor House, 2007).