This beautiful pasta dish is springtime in a bowl. It's bright and herby and loaded with vegetables, but unlike most primavera recipes, it scales way back on the heavy cream, so it actually feels light and "springy." It also utilizes chicken sausage for both flavor and protein, and makes for a delicious, well-balanced meal.
Precooked chicken sausage links
I choose to make this recipe using precooked chicken sausage links for a few reasons.
First of all, they're easy to find. Many grocery stores in my area of Brooklyn sell precooked sausage links but not ground chicken sausage. You can use ground if you have access to it and prefer it. If you happen to be substituting the precooked links with raw sasuage links, remove the meat from the casings and crumble it prior to cooking it.
Secondly, I've been highly successful with developing caramelization on the precooked sausages, and doing so rather quickly. This caramelization helps build a more meaty flavor and enjoyable texture throughout the dish without sacrificing precious time. The dish is meant to come together quickly, something you can whip up after an afternoon outdoors.
For this recipe, try to find a chicken sausages with simple flavors. Sweet or spicy italian works well. I stay away from flavors like mushroom, thyme, and sundried tomato which distract from the rest of the flavors in the dish.
Spaghetti is my preferred pasta for this recipe and most recipes that call for the pasta water method. It's strong enough to hold up to the vegetables, sausage, and vigorous stirring, but thin enough to cook quickly and finish cooking in the sauce created by the pasta water. Other shapes I've enjoyed in this recipe are linguine, farfalle, penne, and fusilli, but spaghetti wins.
The Pasta Water Method
You may know it by now, but the pasta water method works so well for transforming a mixture of tasty ingredients into a true sauce. Adding slightly underocoked spaghetti to the deglazed sausage and vegetables along with some parmesan cheese and pasta water creates a thick, creamy sauce in which the spaghetti finishes cooking. It sounds more complicated than it is. In fact, its very simple, and once you try it, you'll use this method all the time.
Zucchini, tomatoes, and frozen peas are all excellent vegetables for making primavera. They're colorful and tasty, and they soften nicely without overwhelming the somewhat thin pasta shape we're using. Again, time is a factor since the vegetables and sauce come together while the pasta cooks, so these three fast-cooking vegetables are perfect.
2 small zucchinis, sliced into quarter moons
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 pre-cooked chicken sausage links, sliced into rounds; or 7-8 ounces of ground chicken sausage
1/3c white wine
The juice of 1 lemon
Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper
1/4c parsley and/or basil, chopped
1/2c parmesan cheese
1/2c frozen peas
2Tb light cream (optional)
- Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat and cover. While water comes to a boil, slice and dice vegetables, herbs, and sausages as stated above.
- When you're done chopping, heat 2Tb olive oil in a large Dutch Oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, arrange chicken sausage rounds in an even layer so most of them make contact with the pan. Allow them to sear for 2 minutes undisturbed, or until the bottom side of each piece is deeply golden. At this point you can stir the sausage.
- The pasta water should be boiling by now, but if it isn't, lower the flame on the sausages down to low and continue to toss them occasionally until pasta water comes to a boil. Once the water is boiling, drop spaghetti into the water, and add the zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic, along with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste, to the pot with the sausage.
- Sauté vegetables for 5-6 minutes until they soften and tomatoes become jammy. Add the white wine and cook for another minute, just until the alcohol smell burns off. Add the frozen peas and lemon juice.
- When pasta is almost cooked, but still a little too hard to eat, use tongs to transfer it directly from the water to the veggie/sausage mixture. Stir the pasta into the veggie/sausage mixture along with 1/4c pasta water and 1/4c parmesan cheese until a thick sauce forms. Then stir in another 1/4c pasta water and 1/4c cheese, until a thick sauce forms again. At this point, pasta should be fully cooked. If not, you can continue the process of adding pasta water and stirring until pasta is cooked to your liking. Turn off the heat and stir in the light cream and herbs.