by Diane Rossen Worthington
Every year, I look forward to the time when summer drifts away into the cool, crisp days of autumn. From a cook’s point of view, I can recognize the signals: The tomatoes, corn, fresh herbs and summer fruits are slowly being replaced in the markets by sturdier produce fit for fall weather. Just before this change of season occurs, I have a compelling desire to enjoy all the tastes of summer one last time. That’s how this dish came into being.
This light, simple sauce takes into account a broad array of seasonal vegetables and includes your choice of grilled sausages for a substantial main course. I like using pre-cooked sausages that just need to be cooked through. You can get creative here. I have substituted the sausage with pre-cooked shredded chicken. I have often served this as a vegetarian main course omitting the sausage. Try grilled shrimp or scallops, or change up the Parmesan for Asiago or Pecorino cheese. Or try it just as is.
I particularly appreciate how versatile this dish is. You can serve this hot, room temperature or chilled. If you have any left over, refrigerate it and add some vinaigrette to make it into a pasta salad. To drink? This dish will be best with a fruity red wine that will balance its strong flavors. Try a Zinfandel, Gamay Beaujolais or Rhone variety.
Indian Summer Pasta Serves 6 to 8.
1 1/2 Pounds assorted sausages: sweet, hot, or Turkey Sausages with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, optional
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
3/4 Pound green beans, yellow wax beans or sugar snap peas, cut into 2-inch pieces and cooked until crisp-tender
2 1/2 Pounds peeled and coarsely chopped ripe red and, if available, yellow tomatoes
1 Cup fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1/4 Cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Pound dried small pasta shells (sometimes called gnocchi)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat grilling. Arrange the sausages on the grill rack and grill 3 inches from the heat for about 20 minutes, rotating them on all sides until the fat runs clear. (Alternatively, place them on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high power for 4 minutes, or until the fat runs clear.) Transfer to a platter and let cool. When cool, cut into 1/4-inch slices.
2. To make the sauce, in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, making sure it does not burn. Add the green beans and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes. Add the corn and cook for 2 minutes. Add the basil, parsley, salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add the sausages to the sauce and taste again for seasoning.
3. Add salt to a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook over high heat until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain well.
4. Place the pasta in the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Garnish with the basil and a few tablespoons of the Parmesan. Pass the remaining cheese separately. Serve immediately.
The sauce can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before reheating. Gently reheat the sauce.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays,” and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.