Keep it simple: Spaghetti with artichoke hearts, sausage, and olives

Short on time and energy to make dinner? Use a few basic ingredients for a tasty winter supper.

Blue Kitchen
Spicy Italian sausage, onion, and garlic with artichokes and olives combine for a hearty pasta dish.

New York is a feast every time we’re there. On arrival, it puts our senses on high alert and keeps them there, in a good way, until we leave. There is always something to see, hear, do… always.

Our recent four-day visit was no exception. As always, we arrived with an overly ambitious list of things to do. As always, some went undone, often replaced by new things we learned about on the fly. And as always, the longest part of the list was devoted to art.

And there was food, of course. Street hot dogs pragmatically (and happily) consumed as fuel. A generous pound of fresh cherries from another street vendor. (When he threw the sack on the scale and it registered close to a pound and a half, he just shrugged and said, “Eh, I give you a little extra.”) Serviceable slices from a pizza place right at our neighborhood subway stop. Continental breakfasts in the morning and refreshments in the afternoon at the always welcoming Franklin Hotel, a place we think of as home more with each visit.

Restaurant meals included delicious farm-to-table fare with an ironic wink and a nod at Alder. Our traditional lunch of fiery Korean chicken wings at KyoChon Chicken. A quiet, lingering dinner at the Peruvian/American restaurant Village Pisco. And my favorite meal of the trip, dinner at the always bustling French bistro Lucien, in the East Village. We try to get there every visit, and even though it’s usually only every year or so, we’re always treated like regulars. If we lived in New York, we would be.

Our first night back home, we got carryouts. It was just easier, with unpacking and laundry and everything else. But the next night, we wanted something cooked at home. Nothing too involved or requiring a trip to the grocery store, but something made in our kitchen and eaten from our dishes. So in the morning, before leaving for work, I moved a small lump of spicy Italian sausage from the freezer to the fridge to thaw, made sure we had an onion and some garlic and found a few more ingredients in the pantry. We were set.

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts, Sausage and Olives
Serves 2 generously (see Kitchen Notes)

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces spicy Italian sausage (see Kitchen Notes)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1/2 roughly chopped green olives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces uncooked dry spaghetti

1. Start a large pot of water to cook pasta. While water is coming to a boil, prep the other ingredients. As the water reaches boiling, heat olive oil in medium sauté pan over medium flame. Salt pasta water generously and start cooking pasta.

2. Add sausage to sauté pan and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. Make a hole in the middle of the pan and add onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Toss onion and sausage to combine, then make another hole and cook garlic until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Mix everything together, then make one last hole and add tomato paste. Cook paste for 1 or 2 minutes, pressing it into the pan to brown slightly.

3. Add a ladleful of pasta water to the pan (about 1/2 cup). Add artichoke hearts and olives and toss everything to combine. Reduce heat to low. Season lightly with salt and generously with black pepper.

When pasta is on the very al dente side of done, drain (reserving additional pasta water) and add to sauté pan. Toss to combine and let cook for a minute or so to let pasta absorb some of the sauce, adding more pasta water by tablespoonfuls as needed (I added about 3 tablespoons). There won’t be a sauce per se with this dish; it’s more a coloring and coating (and flavoring) of the pasta.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Divide between two shallow bowls and serve.

Kitchen Notes

How many servings? As a meal, we got two servings with lunch-for-one leftovers.

Spice things up. You really do want a little heat from this dish. If you only have mild Italian sausage, add some crushed red pepper flakes, maybe a half teaspoon.

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