Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage & Whipped Ricotta

Hello friends. How are you? Are you handling this sudden shifting world around you alright? Are you getting the things that you need? Are you also struggling with differentiating between a want and a need? Are you settling into new routines okay? Are you feeling supported? I have so many questions for you and I really hope you’re doing well as you deal with everything feeling dramatically different pretty much overnight.

So let’s just take a moment to start there today— with love and connection and tenderness and a simple reminder that even though there’s usually a screen between us, I’m here for you. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, we have a connection, we have a relationship. We are part of the same tribe.

So truly, let me know if you need anything. I have a lot of recipe wisdom, many thoughts and advice for farmers considering starting a CSA for the first time, tons of connections to good food being delivered in the greater Madison area, and new coaching skills that have taught me how to show up for others more deeply and be a great listener. I’m here.

For me, this past week has been one of trying to find my ground. I’m sure many of you have felt that same way. I’ve paused. I’ve listened. I’ve set boundaries. I’ve overdone it. I’ve gotten mad. I’ve gotten scared. I’ve exhausted myself with far too much advanced planning, and then found the space to pause again. I’ve reached out. I’ve asked for help. I’ve offered what I have to give. I’ve walked a bazillion steps and found solace in nature. I’ve connected. I’ve socialized through all of my devices. I recorded 134 videos to reach people I love. I’ve thought too much. I’ve thought too little. I’ve giggled. I’ve cried. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve done new things and gotten creative. I’ve re-prioritized. I’ve stepped up. I’ve stepped down. I’ve lost focus. I’ve found it again.

It was all exhausting. This past week was exhausting. There is no other way to think about it or say it: being a human right now in this world is simply exhausting. And as so many of you know, so many kindred friends who also run small businesses and/or non-profit organizations, continuing to dream and lead and build through this mess is filled with even more complex emotions, because no one has any idea what the future holds and webinars just keep on telling us how everything is changing forever, right now, in front of our eyes. Seize it or become obsolete. No pressure. JESUS! It’s just all so freaking much to handle.

And yet, we still planted seeds. We still unloaded the new hoophouse we got from a friend onto pallets, ordered more soil from our friends in Cottage Grove, and received a shipment of equipment and upgrades for the year ahead. We’ve purchased our very first cultivation tool for the tractor– a 64-inch tool bar with some tender plant hoes to mount onto it– and an undercutter to make digging carrots a whole heck of a lot easier. We’ve continued conversations with potential crew members and received CSA orders for the season ahead. We’ve kept doing the kinds of things we always do in March. We keep moving forward.

I’m sure we will have to change some things about our farm this year. When our employees start in a couple weeks we’ll have to create new protocols for sanitization and and the ways we can (or can’t) share space together. We’re definitely sitting down to rethink some of the facets of how we do business: things that will no doubt make us better and stronger in the long run. All those details are still a ways off. I’ll be sure to share them whenever they’re ready to be shared.

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For now, please just enjoy a cozy, comforting Sunday dinner on me. I hope this recipe adapted from one in Joshua McFadden’s dynamite cookbook Six Seasons brings you some degree of  peace and calm this evening (or week). Know that I’m thinking of you, holding space for you, and dedicated to sharing so many more recipes to get us through this stretch of isolation together.

Much love,
Leek

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PASTA WITH BROCCOLI, SAUSAGE & WHIPPED RICOTTA
Adapted ever so slightly from the incredible Six Seasons cookbook

Serves 4
Takes 45 minutes

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1 pound broccoli
8 ounces pasta of your choice (we used penne)
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
Freshly ground black pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

  1. Put the sliced garlic in a small bowl and cover with 4 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.
  3. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, prepare you broccoli. Cut the top into bite-size florets. Push to the side. Peel the stem with a vegetable peeler and then cut the stem into 1/4-inch thick coins. Keep the stems separate from the florets (you are going to cook them differently).
  4. Your pasta water is likely boiling now. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When there are just 3 minutes left in the cook time for the pasta, remove 3 or 4 ladle-fuls of pasta water to a small bowl or measuring cup for later use. Then, add the broccoli florets to the pasta kettle. Drain the pasta and broccoli.
  5. Shape the sausage into four patties (like you are going to make hamburgers). Heat  a cast-iron or other large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is hot and just beginning to glisten, add the sausage patties. Cook, without moving, for 4 minutes so they patties can get nicely browned on one side.
  6. Flip the patties and pour the garlic (with all of that yummy infused olive oil) over top of them. Add the broccoli stems as well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more without moving. Then uncover, and break up the sausage into bite-size pieces. Add red pepper flakes and a ladle-ful of that reserved pasta water. Stir gently to get all those crispy brown pieces from the bottle of the pan into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and add the pasta. Pour another ladle-ful of reserved pasta water and stir everything to combine.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 10 twists of freshly ground black pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon of the pre-ground stuff) until fluffy. Add to pasta along with the Parmesan.
  8. Stir once or twice to incorporate and then shake the pan to further combine ingredients. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper (or the remaining 1/4 teaspoon). Add more pasta water if you want a looser (thinner) sauce.
  9. Serve warm and enjoy!

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