- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2012

When you select the right ingredients, it doesn’t take many of them - or much time - to create a fantastic dinner.

The trick is to pick ingredients with tons of flavor, then let them do the heavy lifting for you. I usually start with a main ingredient that is basically agreeable to any flavor. Chicken, pasta, pork tenderloin, potatoes - all great choices.

Next, pick a few pantry staples that pack gobs of flavor. Cheeses, cured meats, hot peppers, and just about any sauce or seasoning you care to pick up in your grocer’s international aisle.

This recipe for spicy sausage and arugula penne is a great example of this approach. I boil up some pasta, then toss it with browned peppery sausage, deliciously bitter baby arugula, some savory sun-dried tomatoes and grated Parmesan. The result is amazing.

And of course, the recipe is incredibly versatile. No sausage? Use ground beef, pork or turkey. Don’t care for sun-dried tomatoes? Use roasted red peppers. Parmesan not your style? An aged Gouda or crumbled feta would be delicious, too. And baby spinach or broccoli easily would stand in for the arugula.

Have it your way. Just be sure to have it with lots of flavor.


Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 6

12 ounces penne pasta

1 pound spicy Italian sausage

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

5-ounce package arugula

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium-high, brown the sausage meat and onion until cooked through, about 10 minutes. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into bite-size chunks. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and arugula, then toss well. Add the pasta and toss until heated through and the arugula just begins to wilt.

Add half of the cheese and a splash of the reserved pasta-cooking water. Toss well, adding more water, if desired, to create a sauce. Serve topped with the remaining cheese.

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