Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cheesy Sausage Pasta Skillet & {One Year} Blogiversary

Happy one year of blogging to me! My first blogiversary just passed on July 1st and I didn't even realize it.  I actually was just typing out a sentence that I have been having writers block all week and couldn't come up with anything to write for this post, and then it dawned on me that I have been blogging for a whole year already! I feel like I should be posting a cake recipe or something to celebrate this event, but I really want to share this recipe instead because it was so delicious!  I actually do have a vanilla cupcake recipe that has been waiting in the wings for awhile....hmmmm...nah I'm going to stick with this one :)

This is a wonderful, easy weeknight meal that is ready in under 30 minutes, and you only have to dirty one pan!  That is always a huge plus in my book, especially when it comes to weeknight cooking.  I was expecting this dinner to be a fairly stick to your ribs, hearty pasta dish with the sausage and cheese combo but it turned out rather light and fresh with all the delicious veggies in there.  Everything just worked really well together and the flavors were very complimentary.  Feel free to change up the vegetable combination or leave out the sausage and switch the chicken stock with vegetable stock if you wanted to go vegetarian with this dish.  The portobello mushrooms have enough of a meaty quality all on their own. The sauce is very creamy and cheesy without being too heavy, just delicious. This recipe makes a lot of food too, so be ready to feed an army or prepare for leftovers, which reheat great, by the way. I hope you enjoy this one as much as we did!

So now for the nerd in me, a few stats for my blogiversary: I have 40 posts, of which 29 are sweets and 11 are savory dishes, I have 42 comments (of which probably at least 35 are my mom, lol), the blog has received an average of 62 page views per day, and my most popular posts are better than sex cake and carrot cake cupcakes with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Even though the blog is definitely still a tiny blip in the sea of amazing food blogs out there, I am very proud of this journey so far and hope to continue on for years to come.  I always find it fun when I want to make one of my favorite recipes and I get to go find it on my own blog!

Cheesy Sausage Pasta Skillet

1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small red or yellow onion, diced
6 baby portobella mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb bulk sweet or hot italian sausage
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups penne pasta (I used mini penne)
4 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh parsley
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat and add the olive oil, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and sausage.  Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces.  Cook, stirring frequently until the sausage is cooked through, starting to brown and the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Drain off some of the fat from the sausage, if needed.  Add the chicken stock, water, pasta, and seasonings and cook for the recommended cooking time on the pasta package.  Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the cream cheese and parmesan cheese and let the sauce simmer for 1-2 minutes.  The sauce should be thick and coat the pasta well.  Add the green onions and tomatoes just prior to serving.  Top with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

A few notes:
-Draining the fat off from the sausage may be totally unnecessary.  It will depend entirely on how fatty your sausage blend is.
-Make sure you use real grated parmesan cheese, the stuff in the can won't work for this sauce
-This type of one pot pasta meal, where you cook the pasta right in the liquid that will become the sauce, is very different than cooking pasta in boiling water, draining, and then stirring together with your sauce.  You need to make sure to move the pasta around a lot to avoid a clumpy mess. You also need to monitor the liquid level.  If your liquid is starting to get really low but the pasta is not cooked all the way yet, just add a little more water.
-We actually ate this meal without the tomatoes, since K is a raw tomato hater.  It was excellent without them but they do add a really great pop of color and a little sweetness.  I add some to my lunch leftovers the next day and thought it was good that way too, but they weren't a game changer. So anyways, if you are a tomato fan, add them in. They will cook a little from the heat of the dish, but essentially they are still raw.


Inspired by The Weary Chef