Monday, November 9, 2009

Baked Pasta with Sausage

I made this super delish recipe tonight for dinner. After eating his first helping - my husband announced "alright...this is my new favorite dinner" - that is saying a lot since at first glance, I thought it was just another take on lasagna - b/c let's face it - most Italian food is made up of the same basic ingredients (same with Mexican food now that I think of it...)
Anyway - I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's site and it tastes just like eating at Romano's Macaroni Grill - or your fav Italian place...
AND you can give yourself a big ol' pat on the back for sneaking in all that spinach! I just read about how spinach is a "documented Super Food" it goes on to say that "with most Super Foods, there are one or two nutrients in particular that push an individual food to best in category. With spinach, the list is so long and impressive that the wide range of individual nutrients coupled with the unmatched synergy of those nutrients make it a top Super Food."
The fact that all 3 of my kiddos macked this down, spinach and all, was most excellent (am I chanelling Bill & Ted? TOTALLY!)
You can make this in a 9"x13" casserole or you can split it into 2 8"x8" pans (one of my favorite tricks) serve one tonight, and keep the other in the freezer for up to three months. To freeze, prepare the dish up until you stick it in the oven; let cool completely before covering tightly with plastic wrap and put in the freezer. If you freeze this dish, do not thaw before baking (awesome!) Remove plastic wrap, and cover with foil. Cook until heated through, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove foil, then top with cheeses and bake 20 - 30 minutes at 400.

Baked Pasta with Sausage
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (if you are lazy like me - I use the prepared minced garlic in a jar - which would be 2 t)
1/4 cup vodka (I eliminated this)
28 oz diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni (or whatever you have on hand - I like rigatoni or penne because the sauce fills up the inside of the pasta and sticks to the ribbing on the outside of the pasta)
10 oz fresh baby spinach
12 oz ground sausage (Martha uses pre cooked thickly sliced chicken sausage - you know me - I just use what's around!)
6 ounces fontina cheese, 4 ounces cut into 1/2-inch cubes and 2 ounces coarsely grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (I rarely salt my pasta - it seems that most of the time salt is naturally added with other components - and as a last resort - you can always add more salt per your preference - but I am giving you the Martha recipe... mostly). Put it in your biggest, deepest skillet without any oil over medium heat. If your sausage isn't precooked, take it out of the casings, break it up and cook it until no longer pink. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic. Remove from heat; add vodka (if desired). Return to heat; cook until almost evaporated, 1 minute (this step is only necessary if you use vodka - like I said - I didn't and it turned out great!)
Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook until tomatoes are falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Before you drain the pasta - Add spinach, and cook just until wilted. Then drain and return contents to pot.
Add tomato & sausage mixture, and cubed fontina to pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Put into your choice of casserole(s) dishes. Top with grated Fontina and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.

*You can substitute Mozzerella for Fontina. I have never used Fontina cheese before and can I just say that I am an instant fan. It costs about $5 for 6 oz. but so does fresh mozz. Fontina is very mild - but it melts like that is it's purpose in life. It gets all melty and gooey and lovely. Big fan.

**Also - you can substitute milk for heavy cream. I used heavy cream in this recipe - but it's not something I usually have on hand. I've got it stuck in my head that I can't keep anything dairy in my fridge unless it will serve a specific purpose in the next couple of days. I have realized that just isn't true! I bought heavy cream 2 weeks ago - and the expiration date on the bottle is the end of December. I have also realized that this is true with a few other items - like shredded parmesan cheese - which I will go into more detail in my next post... stay tuned!

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