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Grilled Italian sausage and tortellini

Grill about 10 minutes or until juices run clear.
Grill about 10 minutes or until juices run clear.
Alyce Morgan

At summer's midpoint, despite windows wet with St. Paul humidity, there comes a day when one more grilled chicken breast or burger won't do it. Even salmon filet has lost its pull. Something in a pot seems to call. But not something that stays in the pot too long. We're not thinking chili or beef stew, though they don't sound too bad. Well, yes they do. It's just too hot. But grilled Italian sausage and tortellini with a nearly instant marinara (can use those garden or market tomatoes if you like) might be pretty luscious. If sausage doesn't tempt you, buy some pre-cooked shrimp or grill/boil some yourself.

Beat the mid-summer grill blahs
Alyce Morgan

This isn't a complicated meal (the pasta, not fussy, is good hot or cold), and once you have it down, you'll make it year-round. It's kid-friendly, too, and is a prize for mixed vegetarian/carnivore families as it's easy to leave the meat or fish aside. Here's the drill: (Ingredients needed are in bold type or in marinara recipe below)

  • Put on the water on to boil and cook the 9 oz fresh cheese tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Meantime, make the quick marinara (recipe below) in another pot. Mix with tortellini. Set aside.
  • Preheat the grill. (or have a partner handling this portion)
  • Grill 4 Italian sausages (about 10 minutes according to Weber-try indirect first, then higher heat to brown)
  • Throw 4-6 cups salad greens (plus any other vegetables you like) in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2t red wine vinegar and toss in a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Toss. Drizzle on top of the greens 2T extra virgin olive oil. Toss. Squeeze a teaspoon or so of fresh lemon juice (optional) over all and toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Make 4 plates of tortellini with marinara, Italian sausage or cooked shrimp, and salad.
  • Pass the Parmesan and pour the wine.

Nearly Instant Marinara serves 4 with pasta

2T olive oil or butter

1/4 cup each chopped onion and celery

2T chopped green pepper and/or carrot (Do not increase the carrot, you'll ruin the sauce.)

1 t garlic, minced, optional

1 can (28 oz) chopped Italian tomatoes (if using fresh tomatoes, you'll need to peel (if desired)/cook them down slowly for an 30-60 minutes--about 2# of tomatoes to start)

Pinch crushed red pepper, if desired

Salt and pepper

4T fresh basil, julienne (roll up leaves together and slice very thinly)

Saute the onion, celery, green pepper and/or carrot in the oil or butter for five-ten minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic for the last minute or so. Stir in the tomatoes and season lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper and the crushed red pepper, if using. (I like the red pepper if you're adding the shrimp instead of the Italian Sausage.) Bring to a boil for a minute or so and reduce to a healthy simmer. Let the tomatoes cook down ten minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the sauce it simply too acidic, add half-teaspoon honey or a little less white sugar and taste again. Mix with tortellini and top with basil. This is not a big, spicy sauce; it's a gentle gravy. Good cold, too.

Wine: A not-too big Italian red (I like Taurino's Rosso from Salice Salentino, which is a blend or even an able-bodied Italian white like Maculan's Pino & Toi. (No, I have no stock in either winery!)

Dessert: Sorbet or granita. Lemon would be perfect, but any (or a handful of rasperries) would do.

For more info:

Tomatoes are coming on at the St. Paul Farmer's Markets (or in your neighbor's yard/ask first)

Does Kowalski's have fresh pasta? Yes.

Where's the Italian market? Cossetta's.

Great Parmesan at St. Paul Cheese (on Grand at Snelling) (Not only lovely cheese, but a good price, too.)

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