When life is crazy and chaos reigns, at work or home or both, at the end of the day it's important to have a handful of dishes in your repertoire that can be pulled together in minutes, but still taste delicious and make you feel cared for. I like to call these "feel-good dinners."
Whether you're sitting down with friends or family or curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and your favorite show, a feel-good dinner can wipe away the daily drama without adding extra stress in the cooking process.
What feels good to me might not be what floats your boat, but when I need a little TLC in a bowl, I often turn to pasta, and for good reason — it's the ultimate quick and easy meal. I mean, is there anything more comforting than a fork twirled into a bowl of spaghetti, bathed in butter and showered with freshly grated Parmesan cheese?
While that might be the simplest version of the "feel good" concept, there are plenty of other options that are almost as easy. One of my favorites is this week's recipe, Creamy Penne with Sausage and Greens.
Yes, it's a step up from buttered spaghetti, but since the sauce can be made in the time it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta, it's just as quick to make.
It starts by browning Italian sausage. Then you add a little garlic, Swiss chard (although, kale or baby spinach work just as well), cream and Parmesan cheese and you're good to go.
One pro tip that's employed in this recipe and in restaurant kitchens on a regular basis —always save a little of the cooking liquid when you drain your pasta. It's perfect for adding a little extra moisture to the pasta, and the starch in the pasta water gives the sauce a glossy silkiness.
No matter what shenanigans life throws your way, a bowl of this pasta will make your day or night just a little bit better.
Creamy Penne with Sausage and Greens
Quick and easy, this flavorful and satisfying one-dish meal is the perfect choice for a hectic weekday dinner. From Meredith Deeds.
• 12 oz. penne pasta
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 bunch Swiss chard, rinsed, stems removed and coarsely chopped
• 3/4 c. heavy cream
• 1/2 c. shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package directions, using the lowest recommended cooking time. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until meat is browned and cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the Swiss chard and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add heavy cream and reserved pasta cooking liquid and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the drained pasta and cheese and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, to allow the sauce to marry with the pasta. Stir in lemon juice.
Taste pasta and add a little salt, if needed. (Depending on how salty the pasta cooking liquid is, the sauce may not need any added salt.)
Divide pasta among bowls and serve with more Parmesan cheese on the side.