Friday, September 4, 2009

The Birthday Dinner

Growing up, part of our birthday celebrations always included dinner of our choice cooked by my mother. My hubby's family had the same tradition -- he always picked crab cakes and I requested beef stroganoff, which is funny as neither of us ever eat those meals anymore, but I digress...

Today is our oldest daughter's 6th birthday, so in carrying on the tradition, I asked her earlier this week what she wanted for dinner tonight at our family party. She requested white beans and sausage pasta, which is technically two meals, but it's her day, so she can go wild.

Let me pause here to say how proud I am of her choices. Despite some evidence to the contrary on this blog, we've made progress friends, as I'm certain her request last year would have been pizza or nuggets and Annie's mac and cheese.

The white beans are just a simple pot of navy or great northern beans that we cook all day -- we just sauté some celery and onion, add pre-soaked beans, chicken broth + spices (usually some Tony Chachere's , kosher salt, some fresh ground pepper, a bit of sage...), bring to a boil and then simmer for the rest of the day. Served over brown rice, this is one of our all-time favorite meals... We love it, the girls love it, it's easy, healthy and cheap. A major win!

The sausage pasta is a new favorite we make about once a week and is pretty much a simple combo of orecchiette, turkey sausage and loads of Parmesan. I serve it with just the meat and pasta for the girlies + a side of steamed green beans, and after I remove their portion from the pot, I add sautéed spinach and asparagus for Bryan and me. Maybe by next year she'll be eating that too...

I can dream ;-)

Orecchiette with Sausage, Asparagus and Spinach

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 4 sweet Italian sausages (about 1 pound), casing removed and crumbled
  • Small bunch of asparagus, trimmed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed, and cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup organic chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon organic butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown for about 8-10 minutes, transfer to a bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes; drain, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water.

In the same skillet that you cooked the sausage in (don’t wash it out) add the olive oil and once hot, sauté the asparagus until almost tender, then add the spinach and continue sautéing until wilted.

Add sausage mixture to sautéed spinach and asparagus and mix together.

Add the orecchiette to the mixture. Stir to combine, adding chicken broth plus the cooking liquid if pasta seems too dry; add the teaspoon of butter, sprinkle with cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.


  1. I'm always looking for new recipes and this one definitely sounds like a winner! Thanks for sharing :-)

    Happy birthday wishes to your sweet little girl!

    p.s. I used to get to pick my favorite dinner and I'd always pick enchiladas. You guessed it, I never make them and very rarely order them when we eat out. Weird.

  2. yum, this sounds fantastic! what spices do you add to the beans? you just say spices.

  3. I love the idea of letting them choose...
    From the age of about 7, I always chose Sushi...raised in a Scandinavian home, we had fish maybe 5 times a week.
    I'm going to try this recipe, sounds great for our girls, as well as the beans!
    Thanks for sharing

  4. what a smart, sweet, little girl you have there! not to mention, cute beyond belief...happy birthday to audrey!

  5. Tried the orecchiette this weekend, delicious! At what step do you at the garlic?

  6. Kelly -- the spices for the beans are a bit haphazard, i'll have to work up a real recipe ;-) we usually use some mix of Tony Chachere's , kosher salt, some fresh ground pepper + a bit of sage.

    Pipers -- good catch. i don't use garlic at all...not sure how that got in there ;-) Glad you guys liked it!

  7. I made the Orecchiette with Sausage, Asparagus and Spinach last night. Four out of four thumbs up!! My husband came back for seconds which he hasn't been doing lately - a sure winner. Thanks!

  8. The pasta dish is awesome! We finally tried it this weekend and grown-ups and kids alike thought it was super. Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. i love the bean recipe.. how much chicken stock do you add..??
    when ever i try something involving all day simmering i usually end up with all the liquid getting sucked up or evaporated and lots of burnt beans!