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Salt and Stone: Keep this pasta recipe in your back pocket

sun-dried tomato pasta

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Peppers and Chicken Sausage.

I had a different plan for this week’s offering. I was dreaming about the perfect summer pasta salad. One that could be made over and over all summer long, full of fresh Valley flavors. Unfortunately, that’s not what turned out. The dressing was too thick, the vegetable-to-pasta ratio unbalanced, the whole thing bland and not what I was envisioning.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

That’s the fun and the challenge of cooking. I constantly remind myself (and my friends, and you), that cooking is a process. Whether you follow a recipe or whip something up, sometimes it just doesn’t work out, and that’s OK. Frustrating sometimes? Absolutely. But it happens to everyone, seemingly especially me.

What I do have to offer this week is an old favorite and a dish I love to share. Perfect for a family with a new baby or friend going through a hard time, this recipe is pure comfort food. It’s easy to assemble, freeze and double, and is incredibly forgiving as you swap in and out ingredients; it’s a recipe to keep in your back pocket.

Onion, garlic and peppers are sautéed quickly before adding sliced chicken sausage to the pan. A few quick minutes later and you’re ready to add the mixture to cooked pasta and toss it all with tangy, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, creamy mozzarella and salty Parmesan cheese. The whole thing bakes in a pan for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt, and dinner is served.

• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Peppers and Chicken Sausage

1 pound penne pasta

4-5 links chicken sausage, sliced into rounds

2 red or orange bell peppers, diced

1 yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

3/4 cup fresh mozzarella, torn or shredded

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and black pepper

In a large pot of heavily salted water, boil pasta to package instructions. Drain water and set aside. In a large sauté pan, cook onion and bell peppers in the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Salt and pepper liberally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring the entire time. Add the chicken sausage to the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until the sausage has brown edges and is warmed through. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the pasta with the pepper and sausage mixture. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and stir well to incorporate. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the pasta to the baking dish. Evenly spread the mozzarella over the pasta. Lightly salt and pepper the dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and garnish with fresh basil. Serves 6-8 hearty portions.

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