A Few Days Before Thanksgiving Pasta

Thanksgiving is tapping her foot impatiently on the doorstep. She’s poking me, inquiring why I haven’t started preparing yet—I haven’t even shopped! She’s rolling her eyes and hurrumphing at me as I flip through my cookbooks, looking at Christmas cookies.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m excited—ecstatic—about Thanksgiving this year. My sister and her husband recently bought their first home, and she’s hosting Thanksgiving for our family and his, somewhere around 20 people. We’ve divied up the tasks (living 2 hours away and not getting there until Thursday morning, I don’t have many) and decided who cooks what. Everything is planned and ready to get started on, but unfortunately I just can’t cook on Monday what we want to eat on Thursday. And in anticipation for the big day, I don’t feel like cooking much of anything else.

The thought of having a kitchen full of dirty dishes on Wednesday afternoon—when I have to start, in a frenzy, to cook my part of the dinner—is terrifying, so I’ve been trying to cook as cleanly and organized as I can this week. Thankfully, this paranoia about keeping a clean kitchen in prep for the holiday begat a wonderful, simple, and calming dinner of pasta with spinach, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sausage. The spices, which remind me of everything wonderful about the holidays—sans any stress—are warm and snuggly. Because you are saving so much time with a practically effortless dinner, I suggest eating by candlelight or a crackling fireplace—tell Ms. Thanksgiving to shove off and enjoy some relaxation before the big day!

Easy Pasta with Spinach, Nutmeg, and Sausage

adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec 07

serves 4

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1½ pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper, white peppercorns if you have them
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 pound cavatelli pasta, fresh or frozen if possible
  • 12 oz (2 bags) fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmesan) cheese, with more for sprinkling

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add sausages. Sauté until cooked through and beginning to brown, breaking up with back of spoon and occasionally scraping bottom of skillet, about 10 minutes. Stir in pepper and cinnamon, then cream; bring to simmer.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite.

Add pasta to sauce. Add nutmeg.* Cook over medium heat, adding spinach in batches and tossing until wilted. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese; serve.

*Nutmeg gets a slightly off taste when heated for too long, that’s why I added it in after the other spices. The original recipe added the nutmeg during the first step, so the cooking time might not have been enough to give the nutmeg this off flavor, but I didn’t want to chance it.