Most days I really enjoy cooking.
It’s so intentional and familiar.
Standing at the same spot in the kitchen. Doing fundamentally the same thing. Everyday.
At its best, it’s an active meditation yielding something tangible that heals our bodies and our souls.
Unless I’m cooking under pressure
On days when things go hay-wire, cooking feels like a chore or - worse yet - an impossible task that cannot be shoe-horned into the ridiculously thin amount of time available.
You know the feeling.
The kids are hungry.
Dinner isn’t done.
And you’re trying to finish dinner while simultaneously wrangling homework, mediating disputes and soothing boo boos.
A meal that would have taken 30 minutes to prepare, takes 3 times that.
You need a meal that comes together near-instantly.
For awhile now I’ve wanted to share recipes that “save” dinner on those days when nothing goes your way.
When I sat down to write the recipes, I realized that almost all my near-instant dishes include 1 common ingredient:
Maybe it’s because my kids love it.
Or because it defrosts and cooks through in minutes.
Or because, when used wisely, just one package can feed an entire family.
Whatever it is, it’s the starring ingredient in the three recipes I’m sharing this week:
Italian Sausage & Roast Vegetable Pasta
Maple Breakfast Sausage and Stewed Apples
Sausage with Weeknight Red Sauce
If you have stand-by disaster day/instant meals, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. I always, always, always need more options!
In the meantime, I hope these quick recipes help lift some of the cooking load on the days you need it most!
Want more recipes, stories & all-around inspiration from our family farm?
All 3 recipes are reasonably healthy and have limited active time.
None of these recipes are precise. Think of them as guidelines you “build out” based on your preference, the amount of time you have and the ingredients you have handy.
Italian Sausage with Weeknight Red Sauce
I’m sure there are much more authentic red sauce recipes out there. But this one works well for weeknights and - despite its simplicity - is very tasty.
1 pack Lyndaker Farms’ sweet Italian sausage (about 1.5 lbs)
2 quarts home-canned tomatoes. Two 28 oz cans of store-bought canned tomatoes will also work
4-6 cloves of garlic
Dried oregano to taste. I probably use about 1 tsp.
Red pepper flakes to taste. I use a pinch
In a large pot, slowly brown the Lyndaker Farms’ Italian sausage on both sides.
Pasture-raised pork is very lean so don’t be surprised if you need to add oil to the pan! I typically use a small amount chicken or duck fat.
Once the sausage is nicely browned (like the picture in the post above), remove the pan from the heat.
Remove the sausage, leaving the remaining oil and yummy brown bits in the pan
Slice the sausage into rounds.
Don’t be alarmed if the sausage is still pink in the middle. The sausage will cook through once you add it back to the red sauce.
Blend the tomatoes and the garlic together in a food processor or blender.
Reheat the pan in which you fried the sausage (being careful not to burn the sausage drippings) and then add the sausage round, oregano and red pepper flakes to the pan.
Stir for about 30 seconds and the immediately add the blended tomatoes and garlic.
Add salt to taste
Let this cook until thick - this takes anywhere fro 20-40 minutes depending on the tomatoes used.
Remove from the heat and serve with pasta of your choice.
I’ve sometimes noticed that store-bought canned tomatoes can be quite thick when blended. If that’s the case feel free to add a cup of white wine or even chicken broth to the sauce.
As the sauce cooks down, the wine and/or chicken broth will slowly evaporate and leave behind great flavor.
Maple Breakfast Sausage With Stewed Apples
This is probably the easiest of the 3 meals. It does have a longer passive time, But the active time is easily 15 min or less.
1 lb Lyndaker Farms Breakfast Sausage Links
6 medium-size apples - cored and cut into quarters
1/4 cup maple syrup.
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350
Place the sausage links on the bottom of dutch oven
On a medium-high heat, brown the links on both sides. Sausages do not need to be cooked through at this stage.
Once browned, removed the dutch oven from the heat and add in the remainder of the ingredients and cover the dutch oven.
Place the covered dutch oven in the oven and bake covered for about 30 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through and the apples are nicely softened.
Serve with a green salad and mashed potatoes or crusty bread
If you have apple sauce on hand, use about 2-3 cups in place of the apples.
If you use an extremely sweet apple - like a fuji or honey crisp - then consider adding 1-2 tbsps of apple cider vinegar as well. This will give the dish a more balanced flavor profile.
Italian Sausage and Roast vegetable Pasta
This recipe looks a little intimidating when you write it down.
But honestly, once you get the hang of preparing the 3 different parts in parallel, this whole dish comes together quickly and easily
1 pack Lyndaker Farms’ sweet Italian sausage (about 1.5 lbs)
2 small-medium sized zucchini or summer squash
Pesto - you can use the pre-made pesto. If you want to make your own, see “Cook’s Notes” below
1 bag of pasta - I like rotini
Place a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil
Once it comes to a boil, add the rotini
Cook until the pasta is softening but not fully cooked through. The pasta should be more “al dente” than you normally like it
Drain pasta and reserve some of the cooking liquid
Turn your oven on broil.
While the pasta water is coming to a boil, slice the zucchini and/or summer squash into smallish chunks. I usually make the slices .5-1 inch thick and about the width of a quarter
Put the zucchini/summer squash onto a roasting pan and toss with your oil of choice plus salt and pepper. I typically use chicken or duck fat.
Place the roasting pan under the broiler and let the vegetables start to brown. You will need to check them every few minutes and flip them if they start to get too dark.
Once the vegetables are nicely browned, remove them from the broiler and set them to the side
While the pasta water is coming to a boil, slowly brown the Lyndaker Farms’ Italian sausage on both sides.
Pasture-raised pork is very lean so don’t be surprised if you need to add oil to the pan! I typically use a small amount chicken or duck.
Once the sausage is nicely browned (like the picture in the post above), slice it into rounds
Don’t be alarmed if the sausage is still pink in the middle. The sausage will cook through fully as you assemble the dish in the final step.
Assemble the dish.
In a large pot on a medium-high stove, combine the pasta and the sausage and toss. You will see the sausage finish cooking through
Add in the roasted vegetables, toss for a minute over the heat and then remove from the burner.
Add pesto to taste.
I like to also add a few splashes of pasta cooking liquid at this stage. It makes the dish a bit saucy and helps to combine the flavors
Plate and enjoy!
The vegetable: I use whatever veg I have on hand. I’ve used roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes as well as steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
The Pesto: I usually make my own, using either parsley or basil as the herb. I don’t follow a recipe, I just throw in lemon juice to taste, 2-3 cloves of garlic, about 3-4 handfuls of herbs, about 5-10 walnut halves, some olive oil, salt, black pepper and red pepper. I then taste and adjust accordingly.