A Matter of Taste

Spicy sausage paired with summer squash gives this quick Rigatoni with Summer Squash, Spicy Sausage and Goat Cheese pasta dish a mild kick, and the goat cheese brings the flavors of the pasta together while adding its own rich nuance. Not into spicy? Switch out the hot sausage for mild and sweet or turkey sausage.

But just looking at the ingredients I knew I had to increase the quantities of some to forge a better balance with the amount of pasta. Unfortunately we couldn’t locate gluten-free rigatoni so we substituted penne, a barely noticeable switch.

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The supermarket wasn’t carrying bulk sausage so I bought the links, removed the casings, and browned the exteriors before breaking into pieces with a spatula.

In addition to increasing the sausage to 1 pound, the goat cheese to 4 ounces, the shallots to more than a 1/2 cup; I also minced up a small banana pepper that I had wallowing in the fridge, adding another pleasant flavor component. Once the yellow summer squash and zucchini were diced, they measured somewhere in the range between 3 and 4 cups as opposed to 2 cups; and the chopped parsley registered closer to 3 tablespoons, both amping up the veggie quotient.

The trick is in how much pasta water to add at the end. Too little and the dish can be a bit dry, too much and it could end up watery. In that case, a hefty sprinkle of grated Parm would help tighten the dish.

It’s all a matter of taste and preference, so don’t be afraid to adjust to your own liking.

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. dried rigatoni
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. bulk hot Italian sausage (or links, casings removed)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
  • 2 cups 3/4-inch-diced yellow and green summer squash
  • 3 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Put the rigatoni in the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 10 minutes.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat 1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into pieces with a spatula or spoon, until it’s almost cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Pour the fat out of the skillet but do not wipe it clean.
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  • Heat the remaining 2-1/2 Tbs. oil in the skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots (I also added the minced banana pepper here) until they begin to soften, about 1 minute.
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  • Raise the heat to medium high and add the squash. Cook, stirring frequently, until the squash is barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
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  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking water and drain the rigatoni. Return the rigatoni to its cooking pot and add the sausage, the squash mixture, and 2 Tbs. of the reserved pasta water. Toss over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through and the rigatoni is perfectly al dente, about 3 minutes. Add more of the pasta water as necessary to keep the dish moist.
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  • Remove from the heat, add the goat cheese and parsley, and toss until the cheese melts and coats the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to warm shallow bowls, and top each serving with some of the grated Parmigiano, if using.
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Adapted by a recipe from Steve Conant of Fine Cooking

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