Whole Wheat Pasta with Country Sausage, Wilted Greens and Ricotta

Now that colder weather is upon us, I've been craving and cooking dishes with heat.

Dishes like this lovely pasta I whipped up with crumbled pork country sausage (plain because the sweet/spicy versions always disappoint), cherry peppers, wilted greens, and my sweet and creamy "drunken onions," all topped with a cooling dollop of fresh ricotta cheese.
It's spicy, but not unpleasantly so -- it hits you with a slow, gentle burn, not a fiery fierceness. And, all of the other flavors help balance out the heat: spicy, salty, sweet, earthy, creamy, yum.

You could say it's like a warm blanket of flavor...

Whole Wheat Pasta with Country Sausage, Wilted Greens and Ricotta
13.5 oz. whole wheat, medium-sized pasta shells
1 TBS unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 TBS brandy
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb plain pork country sausage, casings removed, and crumbled
Kosher salt/ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 small hot red cherry pepper, seeds/stem removed, and finely diced
2 cups finely chopped kale, chard, spinach or a mix of greens
1 cup chicken stock
8 oz. fresh ricotta

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 2

To Do:
  • Fill a large pot with water and a few handfuls of salt, and bring to a boil. Boil pasta until al dente, then reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the rest and set pasta aside.
  • Meanwhile, make the drunken onions: In a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat 1 TBS butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add in the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent. Add the brandy and cook a few minutes more, until alcohol has burned off.
  • Add the garlic and crumbled sausage to the onions, and cook until the meat is browned and the garlic is soft. Season with salt/pepper and add the chili flakes.
  • Stir in the cherry pepper and greens, and cook until pepper has softened and the greens are wilted.
  • Pour in the chicken broth and stir to mix well.  Cook for a few minutes, until all the flavors are combined.
  • Reduce the heat, then add the cooked pasta to the pan and heat until warmed through. 
    • Note: Stir in the reserved pasta water a bit at a time if the pasta mixture seems too dry.
  • Scoop into bowls and top each dish with a dollop of ricotta before serving.

A very tasty way to keep toasty!