Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Inaugural Meal: Tortellini with Squash, Leeks, and Pheasant Sausage

About a month ago, I graduated from college. It was, and is, a strange time for me as I began the transition from college student to possibly beginning my life as a grown up. I've been told that the first step in this is to stop referring to adults as "grown ups", but that message hasn't quite sunk in yet. But I started the process: I got a job, I found a place, and I moved out: into my first apartment.

Like most young adults making this transition, I am facing the regular hardships: distance from my friends, continued distance from my family, the difficulties of working a full time job, and, perhaps worst of all, a lack of kitchen equipment. Because unlike other college students, I was not only studying books, maps, and charts, but knife skills, mixing methods, and how to discern chervil from cilantro and parsley. I guess you can say I didn't go to a "normal" college, but for myself and my fellow students, food
is our way of life.  And finally receiving my diploma from The Culinary Institute of America has provided me with an exciting new opportunity: no longer paying room and board allows me to begin to really cook for myself on a daily basis for the first time since I began my schooling three years ago.  And in my own kitchen!

So, with that said...welcome to my kitchen.  I don't have much in the ways of tools, equipment, or even silverware.  But that's not going to stop me from serving up delicious, simple, and cost effective meals (generally for 1 or 2) from right here in The Apartment Kitchen.

Please excuse the mess, this was taken as I was still getting unpacked. But Matt (my wonderous boyfriend pictured above) and I still cooked ourselves our first meal: tortellini with squash, leeks, and sausage. I had purchased some fresh items from my local farmer's market when my parents were visiting me for my graduation, so we bought lots of fresh herbs, seasonal vegetables, as well as farm-fresh eggs, and some pheasant sausage. This was a homemade sausage infused with garlic made at a nearby farm, but for this dish any sausage would work wonderfully. Best of all, this dish was super easy. We used pre-made tortellini, though it would be even better with freshly made.

The verdict: quick, delicious, local, and seasonal.  The squash was incredibly creamy and the sausage provided great flavor throughout all of the ingredients.  An excellent first meal.

Tortellini with Squash, Leeks, and Sausage

Served 2 plus leftovers
Leftover Potential: Keeps nicely, and reheats easily, provided two more meals after the initial dinner.

1 package cheese or meat tortellini

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small squash, such as butternut or carnival, cut into bite size pieces
2 leeks, white part only, cut in half and sliced finely
3 cooked sausages, cut into bite size pieces*
2 Tbsp sage, finely minced or chiffonade

salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until tender.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sweat the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until soft and aromatic.  Set aside in a large bowl.
3.  In the same pan, heat another 1 Tbsp of olive oil and cook the squash over medium heat until tender and caramelized.  Add the leeks and cook until they are wilted and soft.  Set aside along with the onions and garlic.
4.  In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until the edges brown.  Since the sausage is already cooked, this is just to warm and create a crust.  Right before removing the sausage from the pan, add the sage and let cook until wilted slightly.  Set aside with the vegetables.
5.  When the tortellini is ready, drain completely, then return to the large pot it was cooked in.  Add the vegetable/sausage mixture and toss together over low heat.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  
6.  Serve in large, warm bowls garnished with grated parmesan cheese and more sage.  

*You can buy sausages that are already cooked, like the homemade one I purchased with my family.  If you buy a pack of raw sausages, such as Italian sausages at the grocery store, simply cook the amount you need.  Or cook the entire pack and use them for a variety of meals all week long.


  1. This looks excellent! I might even make it. I'm training myself to like mucky orange veg like squash and sweet potatoes.

    I'm so glad you're back to blogging! This is going right into my Google Reader.

  2. Mmmmm-- looks very yummy. One small hint: put a couple more bulbs in your ceiling fan fixture and your kitchen will be much brighter. love, mom

  3. Grrreat Uncle Bob
    Thanks for the blog. And many thanks for the book, which I skimmed at Grandma Jeanne's yesterday. Would like a copy, even in draft form.
    Love To you, Bob