Comfort is what's craved during those in-between stages of life, and a steaming bowl of Italian Sausage Linguini, all twisted and piled up with savory artichokes, fresh baby spinach, and tender young asparagus is just the ticket.
I love a day like today—completely uncharacteristic, completely unique, and completely at ease with the beautiful vulnerability that it tends to elicit.
As I gaze out of my window, I see the little leaves tremble and dance in the chilly breeze that blows; I see the greyish-purple brooding clouds loom over the mountains in the distance, and feel the sun retreat into a private place where no one can find it.
“Goodbye, for now”, it says.
It's a perfect day for experiencing what it feels like to be in-between seasons, both literally and figuratively.
It is a cold day in late spring, when normally, this time of year is bathed in an almost-too-bright gold, and covered thickly in unrelenting, nearly-choking heat.
But not today.
Today creates a space for reflection upon one's life, an opportunity for contemplation of one's journey thus far, because it is different from the “norm”, and is a small moment in time that seems simultaneously a bit volatile and tender.
When the weather is cool, and we are covered under a blanket of slight darkness that seems a bit like a face with a furrowed brow, it's the perfect time to indulge the soul in a little comfort and warmth.
A bowl of rich, red, saucy, spicy, fragrant and tender pasta, with all of those amazing bells and whistles that a good bowl of pasta should have, is a welcomed companion during this time of "neither-here-nor-there".
It is what one craves and desires on the inside while in between stages.
A steaming bowl of Sweet Italian Sausage Linguini, all twisted and piled up with savory artichokes, fresh baby spinach, and tender young asparagus, is the most soothing thing to wrap around a fork; it is the simplest thing, the most earthy and tangible thing, to deeply breath in the aroma of.
And what a thing of rustic and simple pleasure it is.
When we find ourselves in those vulnerable times of life when we are in-between seasons, in-between roles, and on the cusp of changing the old and bringing in the new, the footing feels anything but sure.
It feels as if one tiny, unnoticed pebble underfoot can throw the whole delicate balance of things off, and send one into their shell looking for a pause from participation.
But one cannot pause—life continues moving forward, onward, with or without our concession.
And thank God it doesn't ask!
Moving from one stage of life to another, from one season to another, is that special time when the heart is tender, and the inner whisperings very soft and subtle.
It is a time to embrace the vulnerability, and to see what new lands it leads us into, and to what new levels filled with new strengths it raises us to.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Italian Sausage Linguini with Asparagus, Spinach and Artichokes
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4-6
• 3 sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed and crumbled
• 1 onion, finely diced
• 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• Black pepper
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 6 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• ½ cup red wine
• 1 ½ (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (42 ounces total)
• 12 ounces thin asparagus, bottoms trimmed, and cut into small pieces on the bias
• 1 cup frozen, quartered artichoke hearts, thawed
• 2 cups baby spinach
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 8 ounces (½ package) linguini pasta, cooked according to package instructions
• ¼ cup julienned or torn basil leaves
• Shaved parmesan, for garnish
-Place a large, heavy bottom braiser or Dutch oven-style pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil; once the oil is hot, add in the crumbled Italian sausage, and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned; remove with slotted spoon and set aside for a moment.
-Into the drippings left behind from the sausage, add the diced onion, and saute that for about 1-2 minutes; then, add in the Italian seasoning, a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, and stir; continue to cook for several more minutes until the onion becomes golden and softened.
-Next add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the tomato paste, and stir to combine, cooking the mixture for about 1-2 minutes to brown the tomato paste a bit.
-Add in the red wine to deglaze the pan, and allow it to reduce until it thickens, about 30 seconds-1 minute.
-Add in the 1 ½ cans of crushed tomatoes, and add back in the browned Italian sausage, and allow the sauce to gently simmer, with lid partly askew, for about 30 minutes.
-After 30 minutes, add in the asparagus pieces and the artichoke hearts, and allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes more, or until the asparagus is crisp-tender; add in the baby spinach and the parsley, and stir to blend, and wilt the spinach into the sauce.
-Add your cooked linguini into your sauce, and using tongs, carefully toss to coat in the sauce, and serve garnished with fresh julienned basil and shaved parmesan, if desired. (You can also just ladle the sauce over your linguini, as well.)