Onions, apples and sausage paired with pasta: the perfect autumn supper. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

September and October are my favorite months and I whole-heartedly embrace the days by gathering goodies from my favorite farmers and then cooking up a storm. I look forward to my drives to Dresden, Bowdoinham, Litchfield or farther afield every week. On my last outing, picking apples was the highlight.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundys Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Many of you already know that I grew up near Lake Ontario, surrounded by a prolific apple orchard. At the time, I took this abundance of autumn fruit for granted.

Now, when I hold an apple in my hand, I feel especially grateful.

In this hearty pasta dish, apples are paired with onions, sausage and herbs for the epitome of fall flavor. I used sweet Italian sausage this time around, but I encourage you to try others.

As I stirred the fragrant onion and apple concoction, observing it morphing into a luscious jamminess, I thought of how to use this sauce in other ways. Ideas include a spread for crostini or a condiment for roast pork or chicken.

The delightfully sticky apple cake is an old family favorite. This recipe is proof that you don’t have to be fancy. Just cook what makes you feel good.

Caramelized Onion-Apple Pasta with Sausage

4 medium yellow onions, diced (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 medium Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (divided)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces uncooked sweet Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orecchiette (or other small, sturdy pasta)
1 cup dry white wine

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove casings if using link sausage and add meat to the pot. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a slotted spoon until well-browned, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Pour off and reserve all but about 2 tablespoons of drippings.

Add butter to the pot. When melted, add onions, apples, thyme, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent the bottom from burning, until the onions are dark brown and the apples are very soft, 25-30 minutes. If the onions start to brown too quickly on the bottom before fully caramelized, stir in 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking. (You may need to do this a few times to prevent burning.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add one pound pasta and cook about 8 minutes (to al dente stage). Drain the pasta and set aside, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

When the onions are finished, add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add wine, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and cook until the wine is completely evaporated, 4-7 minutes.

Add the pasta and half cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook until the water is completely absorbed by the pasta, 1-3 minutes. The pasta should look very glossy and saucy. If it looks dry, add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time as needed. (You might not use all the remaining pasta water.)

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the sausage and a tablespoon or two of sausage drippings into the pasta. Gently stir in 1/4 cup parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Spoon pasta into serving bowls or onto plates and garnish each portion with remaining parsley and cheese. Yield: 6 servings

Caramel Apple Cake

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups apples, peeled and diced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch pan. In a large bowl, beat together oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture. Stir in apples.

Combine walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl then stir into batter.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 1 hour or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Yield: 16 servings

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk

Stir together ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and spread over cooled cake immediately.

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