A winter classic

This is another dish I stumbled across while looking for a fun way to uses the casserole dish. An unassuming recipe,  it’s barely more than an assembly job, and is far more than the sum of its parts.

Winter grains ready for the oven

Winter grains ready for the oven

Much of the flavor comes from the bit of sausage, so choose a good strong one. The different textures of the grains are key to the dish, so it’s important not to overcook them. Oh, and use whatever fresh greens you have around. The original recipe called for escarole, but I was intrigued by the fresh black kale at the market.

Plus it’s another excuse for barley!

As ever, the measurements do not need to be exact:

  • 3 cups fat-free chicken or veg broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup dried barley
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 4 ounces (100 grams)  fresh spinach, coarsely shredded – use fresh grown up spinach, no baby or frozen for this
  • 4 ounces (100 grams) black kale, coarsely shredded
  • 3-4 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 4 ounces (100 grams) medium-sized shell-shaped pasta, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1/4 cup wild rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Put the stock in a saucepan with the oregano and heat through.

Cook the sausage in a skillet in a small amount of oil, breaking up clumps, until no longer pink. The barley is going to need a head start to cook through, so while the meat cooks, put it in a pan and cover with water, place over a low flame. After 10 minutes, drain it and set it aside.

When the sausage starts to brown, add the greens and garlic. Cook, stirring, until greens are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. reserve.

Place the pasta in the bottom of a 10- to 12-cup covered casserole. Spoon cooked sausage and greens over pasta. Scatter rice and barley over greens. Stir in reserved broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and bake until pasta and grains are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, add parsley and stir well. Serve immediately with cheese.

Tip: Keep an eye on the pasta, which is most likely to overcook. Better to have a bit too much liquid than mushy pasta.

-Eve

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