Rapini and sausage with white beans and orecchiette

When we found out that Nick has diabetes, we were  lucky in that we were already eating mostly pretty well, most of the time, cheese and butter and cream aside, and that we didn’t have to make significant dietary changes. I threw out one stale half-bag of poor-quality elbow macaroni that I might have bought at Walmart that dark year I was an intern and had to have three roommates in a basement suite where the front door only kind of locked and where when it rained the water ran into the suite right over the electrical panel. We weren’t going to eat it anyway.

The only thing I really miss now that Nick is restricted is having pasta as a default – not being able to serve up a big plate of refined white carbs when I don’t feel like putting in a real effort, which can happen a couple of times a week, means adapting to a new kind of laziness. And the difference between pasta and something like, say risotto or sushi, which is also white and low on the glycemic index, is that pasta tends to last a couple of meals so you get that good blood-sugar spike a couple of days in a row. Fine for me, shakes and comas for him.

He can still have a small amount of pasta, of course. What he can have is likely what would be considered a normal portion size. And when you get down to comparing labels and noting the varying levels of carbohydrates, the rice pastas and whole-wheat pastas and gluten-free pastas are all similarly bad news carbohydrate-wise; a plate of the whole-wheat stuff is going to affect Captain Diabetes the same way that a plate of the delicious semolina stuff will.

So we adapted. Instead of a big plate of pasta, we have a big plate of stuff with pasta in it if there isn’t enough time to devise a huge and clever feast, or if the idea of opening a cupboard is too daunting to even consider. Here is one of those meals. It calls for blanching, which may qualify as a step that’s too daunting, but it’s really nothing. I promise.

Rapini and sausage with white beans and orecchiette

(Serves four.)

  • 1 lb. rapini, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 19 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop chopped rapini in, and boil for two to three minutes until wilted and brightened in colour. Remove rapini from water, reserving liquid, and plunge into a large bowl of icy water. Set aside.

Return the pot to the heat and bring water back up to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic, then crumble sausage into the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon, breaking the meat up as you go. Add red pepper flakes and tomato paste and continue moving the meat around the pan.

When the water has come to a boil, add pasta and boil until al denté, about eight minutes.

Drain and then add rapini to the pan, stirring to coat in pan juices. As pasta finishes cooking, add beans and lemon zest and juice, then add pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water in case the pan becomes too dry.

Add parsley and cheese. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with additional cheese.

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5 thoughts on “Rapini and sausage with white beans and orecchiette

  1. My favourite Italian place in Toronto has a similar dish, sans the white beans. I love it with all the chili pepper flakes and the slight bitterness from the veggies! PS – when I dig up my low GI cookbook after all the moving, I’ll send it your way, it had some really good stuff in there 🙂

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  2. The dish looks lovely, and I love your approach to adapting your habits. I wonder if the high-protein pastas marketed in the U.S. (don’t know if they are in Canada, too) are metabolized any differently? They might be a ray of hope. We’ve cut down on almost all of our simple carbs to slow our descent into dumplinghood and … well, suffice it to say that a spaghetti squash has been sitting on my counter for two lonely weeks, wanting me to do something with it. Alas, it’s too much of a pain in the ass for a simple-carbs type of night.

    Do you have access to shirataki noodles? They’re made of yam starch and fairy wishes or something, and my brother lost a lot of weight eating them. They might also be worth researching.

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  3. Mango: Where are you moving? If you are Vancouver-bound, we should get together!

    Linda: Thanks! I will check out high-protein pastas when we’re in the States next weekend. I hadn’t heard of such a thing, but it sounds worth a look! I am going to try your dumplings next week, by the way – I just need a bit of chicken first to make the soup I have in mind.

    We have shirataki noodles here for sure, but I hadn’t thought to buy them. I bet fairy wishes are tasty. And he can have all the yam he wants, so probably a good thing.

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  4. We’re off to travel the world soon, and will be back in Vancouver for the summer months, then off to Paris for Cordon Bleu if I can get my act together to pay the deposit and promise them my arm, leg, heart and liver, and first born. We should definitely get together in the summer – it’ll be fun doing the summer stuff like peaches and cherries and berries with you!!!!

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    1. Yes! Let’s do those things for sure. In the meantime, have great adventures! We’ll have much to catch up on when you’re in town 🙂 And congratulations on Cordon Bleu – are you going to become a chef?

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