Monday, September 29, 2008

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

Last night I fixed a great meal for our dinner. It's great for several reasons: I usually have all the ingredients on hand, it makes 2 pans so I can stick one in the freezer and it is a pretty healthy one dish meal. I have realized that I really do tweak everything I make from a recipe and this one is no exception. So I will share it as I made it and if you want to see the original recipe you can go here. I tried to lighten it up a bit and make it a little bit easier. Of course, the original recipe is delicious, but so is my version!

1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, partially drained
1 tsp oregano
1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half
1 lb rigatoni (or the mini penne called piccolini that Barilla makes)
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 oz chicken sausage, sliced lengthwise and then into half- moons (I buy Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic and they are great in this)
6 ounces fontina cheese (or mozzarella), 4 ounces cut into 1/2-inch cubes and 2 ounces coarsely grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

-Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and let cook a few more minutes.

-Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook for 7-8 minutes. Add half-and-half and 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. Add tomato sauce, sausage, and cubed fontina (or mozzarella) to pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly between two shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dishes.
Top with grated fontina and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.

If freezing one pan, don't top with additional cheese until you are ready to bake. Will keep in freezer for 3 months. You can cook from frozen by baking for 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 hours covered with foil, then adding cheese topping and baking an additional 20 minutes.

A great one dish meal for the cool nights ahead!

adapted from Everyday Food December 2004

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