My cooking career? Admittedly, it came and went with my freshman year of high school, when my friend Jessica and I kept a daily tradition of heading to her house after school and cooking up loads of pasta (oh, the sweet days of fast metabolisms). The recipe we based it off was an always-evolving dish of my Mom’s – you know, the kind that comes about by tossing a bunch of random things together in a sauté pan, sans measurements. In both my household and Jessica’s kitchen, this was referred to as “THE Pasta” (with an emphasis on “THE” ) and not a single bite ever tasted anything less than delicious.

While I haven’t cooked anything more complicated than oatmeal since, well, Britney debuted (it was during one pasta session that TRL premiered “…Baby One More Time”), this is the one single recipe I can confidently say I’d still be able to pull off without a single hitch. It’s just that impossible to screw up.

THE Pasta

4–5 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 can chicken broth
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 container any store-bought refrigerated pesto sauce (like BUITONI®)
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, cooked and crumbled
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 16oz package linguine
Pecorino cheese
Fresh basil
Toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook linguine according to package directions for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water to add to finished pasta.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add tomatoes and stir, mixing with garlic. Simmer tomatoes, allowing them to break down a bit. (Sometimes my mom adds a touch more olive oil while they’re simmering.) Add mushrooms, spinach, and chicken broth, covering the pan to allow spinach to wilt. When spinach is reduced and mushrooms tender, stir in pesto sauce, artichoke hearts, and cooked sausage and simmer on low heat for a few minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream, adding pasta water to blend. Put back on the heat for one minute, stirring together.

Add cooked pasta to the sauce and blend. Pour mixture into large pasta serving dish and top with grated Pecorino, chopped fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts.

*All measurements are approximate.

Our Rue Cooking School: Baking & Savory Boutique opens Friday, October 26, at 3PM ET.

 By Sarah Stanley, Staff Writer

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October 25, 2012