I’m starting to think that spring might truly be on its lazy way to Boston. In recent days, I’ve actually felt warm sun on my face and I’ve been leaving my puffy coat in the closet for the first time since November. And it’s about time, to say the least. I have to admit, though, that if not for this year’s extra long comfort food season, I wouldn’t have come across this insta-favorite pasta. I’ve been warming myself with rich, rib-sticking meals for nearly five months, but it was just two weeks ago that I happened upon this perfect winter meal. Spicy, cheesy, weeknight-friendly, and even better as leftovers, it’s the silver lining to this bummer winter.
Creamy pasta will almost always satisfy, but this recipe takes things up a notch with a triple whammy of heat. First, there’s the hot and smoky chorizo sausage, then you add the spicy Ro-Tel tomatoes (a brand of canned tomatoes mixed with green chilies and “secret spices”), and to finish, pepper-spiked Monteray Jack cheese. The cream and the pasta keep the heat in check so that your tastebuds don’t get blown out, but enough spice remains to keep things interesting.
The weather forecast promises springy temperatures in the the mid-fifties and low sixties for the rest of the week. Soon, my thoughts will turn toward spring foods as I try to understand the fuss about ramps and remember the few things I like with rhubarb. That time hasn’t come quite yet, though, and there’s a part of me that’s secretly happy that I get to bake this quintessential comfort food a couple of more times before the buds open.
spicy pasta and sausage bake
adapted from The Best Simple Recipes, by America’s Test Kitchen
This makes a very generous four servings.
You’ll need an oven-proof skillet with a lid, as you’ll be browning and simmering on the stovetop, but finishing the cheese under the broiler.
12 oz chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes
½ cup heavy cream
12 oz penne
Salt and Pepper
2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
Position oven rack for use with broiler (upper third of oven). Heat broiler.
In a large oven-proof skillet, brown chorizo and onion over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add broth, tomatoes, heavy cream, uncooked pasta, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer, stirring every couple of minutes, until pasta is tender (about 15 minutes).
Take skillet off heat, remove lid, and stir in ½ cup of cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top of pasta and place under broiler until cheese is melted, bubbling, and starting to brown (about 3 minutes). Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.