1 pound linguine or whole wheat linguine
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot
1 red chili pepper, very thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
2 bundles arugula or 1/3 pound baby arugula
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cream (optional)
1 cup mascarpone or ricotta cheese (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente, reserving about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water just before draining.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with EVOO, one turn of the pan. To the hot pan, add the sausage and brown and crumble it for 5 minutes. Add the chili pepper and garlic and toss for 1-2 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid to burst the tomatoes, 8-10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to move the tomatoes around a bit. When the skins start to burst, crack the softened tomatoes open with a cooking utensil.
Drain the pasta (remember to reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water) and toss it with the sausage, arugula and most of the starchy water, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. If you are using cream, toss the pasta for an additional minute to heat the cream through. If the sauce gets too tight, loosen it up with any remaining starchy water.
If you are serving the pasta with mascarpone or ricotta, place a dollop on top of each serving for mixing in. But remember, this dish is fantastic as-is as well! This is one of many "Yum-o!" recipes – it's good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael's nonprofit organization, go to www.yum-o.org.