It may seem an odd pairing, but ‘Italian’ and ‘New Orleans’ go together better than you might think. Italians started arriving there in 1718 (right after the French founding of Nouvelle-Orléans), and by the mid-nineteenth century there were more Italians living in New Orleans than in any other U.S. city.
In the aromatic, multicultural stockpot known as New Orleans Cuisine, you don’t have to stir much to find the Italian influence. The city even boasts what may be the best Italian sandwich on earth, the famed Muffuletta. Though they’re available all over town, you can still buy the original at Central Grocery, which has been supplying Italian specialties and other goodies to the French Quarter since 1906.
(Another Italian specialties supplier that started in New Orleans a year earlier, Progressive Foods, is now known by its more familiar name, Progresso.)
This recipe came about from a desire to create a dish that combined several tasty elements of Italian and New Orleans cuisine. Celery, scallion, and garlic form the foundation, while sage, peas, and Parmesan add the finishing touches.
In between, there’s linguine and spicy andouille sausage. Buy the best andouille you can find; there’s a world of difference between the real thing (which should be dry, smoky, and a bit gnarly-looking) and the supermarket stuff (which often looks like speckled hot dogs with a glandular disorder.)
Incidentally, this dish is best when made with leftover pasta (unsauced, of course.) I’d have to say that one of the most useful pieces of culinary wisdom I gained from my Italian upbringing was this: always make extra pasta. If you’re boiling that much water anyway, why not get maximum return on the investment of time, effort, and energy? Plus, if unexpected guests come by, you’re prepared to actually feed them (rather than, as some non-Italian food traditions suggest, just adding more water to the soup.)
If no one drops by then you’ll have a versatile, time-saving ingredient on hand that’s the perfect starting point for busy day dinners – or fun and tasty experiments like this one. (Saving time and money in the kitchen – wouldn’t your Home Economics teacher be proud!)
Here’s how to make the Cajun Fried Linguine With Andouille and Fresh Sage:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced scallions
2 large cloves garlic, minced
6 oz andouille sausage, sliced (or cubed, if you prefer)
8 ounces (dry weight) linguini, cooked in salted water according to package directions
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if frozen, thaw the peas in a bowl of cool water)
1/2 cup ‘petite-diced’ canned tomatoes
1/2 cup (or more) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & coarse-ground black pepper to taste
Sauté the celery, scallions, and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the andouille and sauté until lightly colored.
Cut the pasta into smaller pieces by piling it up on a cutting board (this works best when the pasta is cold). Wet a long knife and cut down through the pile in four places in a ‘tic-tac-toe board’ pattern.
Add the pasta and sage to the pan; sauté until the pasta has started to brown slightly in spots. Add the peas and cook for three more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the tomatoes and the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Variation: for a richer, creamier sauce, stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cream and 1 teaspoon of tomato paste when you add the peas.
Please join us tomorrow to read our newest food and cooking article, a recipe for Rustic Mushroom Tomato Corn Muffin Pizza.
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