Spring Fever: a quick recipe to maximize your outdoor enjoyment!

It’s that time of year again, when (finally!) the trees have blossomed, the sun shines, I no longer have to wear a down winter coat, and all I want is to be outside. I extend the afternoon at the playground as late as possible before I drag my feet to go home, start the baths, and begin dinner. I yearn for dining on the sidewalk, alfresco style. Of course, I usually regret making the decision to go out for dinner as soon as the water starts to slop all over the table, while small hands grab for ice cubes; crayons roll along the floor, landing under a neighboring table; and I have to scarf down my entire entrée in about 4 minutes flat, after the kids have been fed and before the check lands on our table. Hahaha! Yes, I do longingly admire neighboring tables, where couples leisurely sip at glasses of white wine and take their good old time to enjoy their food. Then, again, there’s nothing better than a sloppy kiss of marinara sauce from my two-year-old!

All right, I got a little off track there…… I was trying to admit that when spring fever hits, I want some dinner options at my fingertips that don’t require a good deal of time to prepare. I want to stay outside in the park for an extra hour, come home, quickly chop some produce, throw it all together, and have it on the table in about 30 minutes flat.

The following recipe is one I threw together in my head while walking home from the playground. And it definitely fits under the “spring fever” recipe category. I used turkey sausage, but if you don’t have it readily available to you, feel free to substitute pork or beef sausage. If you happen to live in the New York area, there’s a a lovely company, DiPaolo Turkey Farms from Hamilton, New Jersery, which sells really delicious sweet and spicy sausage. My favorite is the bag of sweet turkey sausage. And since turkey sausage has less fat than its pork counterpart, it gives whatever dish it’s incorporated into a slightly lighter feel.

Yield: 6 main course portions

1/2 box of pasta (farfalle, campanelle, fusilli, or gemelli all work nicely)
12 c. water (more or less depending on the size of your stock pot)
3 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 bag organic, frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 lg. yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 lb. ground turkey sausage
2 Tbl. butter
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, to taste
lg. handful of chopped parsley

In a large, covered stockpot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Just before you are ready to add your pasta, throw in a few good shakes of salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Make sure not to overcook the pasta. You want it to be al dente, meaning that the pasta still has a slight bit of firmness when you bite into it. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion and garlic. After just about a minute, add your sausage. While the sausage begins to cook, break it into smaller pieces with a large spoon. Give the pan some good twists of pepper and some dashes of salt. Add the thawed spinach (you could use fresh spinach, but the frozen variety takes less time to cook, allowing you more outdoor time!), give the dish a nice stir, cover, and allow ingredients to cook until your pasta is done cooking.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it from the water, being sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid to the turkey and spinach. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, and chopped parsley. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Plate the pasta and sprinkle any additional cheese, parsley, and / or pepper you may desire.

And there you have it — dinner done quickly. Toss up a quick salad of chopped cucumbers, Kalamata olives, red peppers, and some feta cheese, and you are good to go. (And perhaps even squeeze in another post-dinner walk!)

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