Roasted Carrot, Smoked Sausage and Spinach Tortellini with a Gruyere Cream Sauce

One of my favorite things about time spent in the kitchen is experimenting with common ingredients in different ways… especially taking an ordinary dish and turning it into something extraordinary.

Take the carrot.  An often overlooked vegetable, typically found as filler on a relish tray.  But there are so many other ways to use the cost-effective carrot.  Shred your peeled carrots on a cheese grater. and use in place of the cheese in tacos. You’ll still get all the color, with more freshness and nutrients, but far fewer calories and fat. And don’t forget about your potato peeler. Long peels of carrots add texture and sweetness to tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches, not to mention a bit of crunch.
And how about roasting carrots… and I don’t mean alongside your potatoes and that same old pot roast your Mother, and your Grandmother made. But, cut up in coins, drizzled with olive oil, fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary, and lightly salted. 

So this week, I gave roasting a try, and when I read through the list of ingredients on sale, including tortellini, I decided on a pasta dish. Talk about extraordinary. The saltiness from the sausage, the sweet from the carrots, the nice texture and color from the spinach, and the creaminess from the Gruyere cream sauce complimented each other perfectly, for one of my favorite pasta dishes yet.

Think Gruyere cheese is a budget-breaker? You can use Swiss cheese instead, but it won’t add the same richness or flavor. Instead, why not take advantage of store sales on specialty cheeses (this week through 3/25, Harris Teeter has all specialty cheeses 20% off, even those that are already on sale). I was able to get a nice size chunk for under $4. And since a little goes a long way with Gruyere, this chunk will last me months and will be used in many dishes including pasta, egg dishes and gratins.
And remember, if you don’t have cream on hand, evaporated milk is a good (and even more cost-effective) substitution.

Roasted Carrot, Smoked Sausage and Spinach Tortellini with a Gruyere Cream Sauce
1 package smoked sausage, cut into coins
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 onion, cut into half-moons
¼ stick of butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup cream
1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 cups spinach
1 package refrigerated tortellini, which has been cooked and drained
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Seasonings as desired (I used a pinch each of Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning and Penzeys Mural of Flavor)

Place the cut up carrots, sausage and onion on a greased rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until lightly browned and caramelized.

While those are roasting, cook and drain the pasta. Then make the sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted add in flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Then add in the cream, lemon juice, gruyere cheese, salt and pepper and desired seasonings (see above). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly.

To the cream mixture, add the cooked tortellini and the roasted vegetables and sausage. Then add in the spinach to wilt and finally check for seasonings and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Serves 4
*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.