If you Google Ziti with Sausage, Onion, and Fennel you would probably find dozens of recipes for this dish, none of them exactly the same. My version of this dish started with a recipe I came across in the Washington Post way back in 2006 published for the Season 6 premier of a little show called the Sopranos. The recipe in the Post was adapted from the Silver Spoon and over the years I adapted that recipe to my own taste (i.e. more spice). This simple pasta dish has become a staple weekday dinner for me, especially when I am super busy at work. It took me awhile but now I can make this meal in under 30 minutes. I’ve also been known to whip it up on the fly when traveling and without access to my myriad of recipes.
I first made this seafood risotto several years ago for my friend Shelley. Her then boyfriend (now husband) Tom was in town and I had the two of them over for dinner. Despite the fact that Shelley is a vegetarian, I decided to roast a large piece of meat. Being that I am not a complete monster, I found this simple seafood risotto from Cooking Light that I thought Shelley would enjoy. Plus it was easy enough to make while the roast did its thing in the oven. Needless to say, the side entrée outshone the roast that was supposed to be the centerpiece of the meal. I can’t even remember what meaty animal I served that evening, but I do remember the creaminess and comfort of the risotto, with bites of shrimp, scallops, and tomatoes.
These days, I make the risotto a few times a year, mostly on Fridays because it does not reheat well for lunch the next day and also because it is great fuel for my Saturday long runs. The key to this risotto is the use of clam juice which adds a rich seafood taste to the cooking broth. The mere two tablespoons of cream (or half and half) makes the risotto seem more decadent than it is. The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of butter but I normally use olive oil instead to make the dish more responsible. This recipe serves two, but can be doubled if you’d like. If you want to increase the ratio of seafood to rice, you will also have to decrease the amount of chicken broth or else the risotto will turn out too runny.
On a recent Friday I found myself without any immediate post-work plans before having to meet up with roommate Alex later that night. For me, cooking on a Friday evening is a good time to make a recipe that would normally be too time consuming for a weekday meal, yet not quite special enough for a Sunday dinner. I scoured across recipes I had previously e-mailed myself and came across one for pasta and braised chicken thighs in a saffron cream sauce. Like many other people, I am trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet and decided to add spinach and peas into the sauce for some extra color and some extra vitamins.
Rigatoni Pasta with Braised Chicken, Spinach, Peas, and Saffron Cream (adapted from Bon Appetit)
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds chicken thighs with skin and bones
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped white onions
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 pound Rigatoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
2 cups baby spinach, packed
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add chicken, skin side down, to skillet and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate.
Add onions and garlic to drippings in skillet; sauté until onions are slightly softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron to skillet; bring to boil. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by less than half, about 8 minutes.