Rigatoni with Sausage, Onion, and Fennel

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.

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Fettuccine in Lemon Cream Sauce with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

I don’t normally cook seafood during the week because most of the time I need to pack some leftovers for lunch the next day and reheating seafood can be a little tricky. I do not want to be the person responsible for stinking up the office. One exception to this courteous inclination is a pasta recipe I first read about in my cousin’s blog for pappardelle, asparagus, and smoked salmon in a lemon cream sauce. Not only is this dish delicious, it comes together in about 30 minutes, making it an ideal weekday meal for me.

While the original recipe calls for pappardelle and three tablespoons of butter, I use the much easier to find fettuccine and replace the butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a healthier touch. (The sauce calls for 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Depending on your perspective replacing the butter with olive oil is either pretty worthless or a good effort in combating heart disease.) Additionally, if I have a few frozen peas on hand I throw them in for a little extra green, which, in my view, never hurts.

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Rigatoni Pasta with Braised Chicken, Spinach, Peas & Saffron Cream

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.

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