You’ll delight in this very tasty, and very quick, easy to put together weeknight meal that’s a nod to Spring with greens such as the leeks which pair well with the other ingredients like spinach and peas, that nestle ever-so-adoringly into the pasta.
The heat from the spicy Italian sausage balances the vegetables’ sweetness. The veggies make it taste so healthy, and the mint really brings a zing of brightness to the dish. We tend to reduce the amount of pasta in these recipes to highlight the other items, as we did so in this case using only 8 ounces of orecchiette.
As another reviewer wrote, the pasta water is definitely needed. Alas, we did not have access to pea shoots, but I don’t think the recipe suffered from a lack of them. In less than a half hour you have an all-inclusive, tasty meal!
Orecchiette with Leeks, Spinach, Sausage and Peas
- Kosher salt
- 3 lb. leeks (3 to 4 large)
- 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
- 1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 5 oz. baby spinach (about 5 packed cups)
- 1-1/2 cups fresh (preferably) or frozen peas
- 12 oz. orecchiette, farfalle, or other short pasta
- 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, finely grated (about 1-1/2 cups); more for serving
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh lemon juice, to taste
- Pea shoots, for garnish (optional)
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
- Trim the leeks, leaving the white and light-green parts. Slice in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick half-moon slices to yield about 8 cups. Rinse well, then pat dry.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, breaking up the meat into small bits, and adding more oil if needed, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a bowl, leaving about 2 Tbs. of fat in the pan. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more oil if the pan seems dry, until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the spinach and peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more. Return the sausage to the skillet, and keep warm.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and return the pasta to the pot.
- Add the sausage-leek mixture, the reserved cooking water, cheese, mint, and a generous pinch of pepper. Toss to combine.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve topped with additional cheese and pea shoots, if you like, and lemon wedges on the side.