I know it’s been awhile but I am back with another installment of Colbsta Cooks. Here is a yummy dish that is great year round…cheesy baked pasta made with Italian sausage, and spinach. It’s delicious and actually pretty healthy. I love this dish for two reasons. 1) You can make it ahead of time and then pop it in the oven when you are ready to eat. 2) It makes a HUGE portion, so normally I make two (in smaller baking dishes) and then freeze the other one. It tastes just as good after it’s been frozen.
I normally serve this with garlic bread or salad or both! Today I am also going to give you a recipe for a quick and easy garlic bread. This also freezes well.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9 x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
First in a medium bowl, combine the cheeses: ricotta, 6 tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Mix it all together and set aside.
Next prep the meat sauce and cook the pasta. You will need the marinara sauce, frozen spinach, italian sausage, olive oil and garlic. Meanwhile, when the pasta water comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions for al dente, but undercook it by 4 minutes less; drain and return to pot.
Start with the sausage. In a large deep skillet, brown the sausage breaking up into small bits until cooked through and brown. Set aside.
Add the oil to the skillet and sauté garlic about a minute, careful not to burn it. Next thaw the spinach and squeeze it of any excess liquid, add it to the pan. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook another minute.
Return the sausage to the skillet and pour in the marinara sauce. Cook on low about 2-3 minutes.
Now it’s time to build the layers in your baking dish. Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with half of the meat sauce. Spoon the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce in an even layer.
Repeat the first two layers with the remaining pasta and the remaining sauce.
Top with the remaining mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 6-7 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned.
Baked Penne with Sausage and Spinach
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (can also use parmesan)
8 oz. fat free ricotta cheese
8 oz. part-skim grated mozzarella cheese
14 oz. Boulder Italian Sausage
16 oz. penne pasta
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups marinara sauce
Now on to the garlic bread. Get a loaf of bread, I used ciabatta this time but have also used french and sourdough. Combine the softened butter and minced garlic in a bowl and mix. Quick tip: I cheated and used minced garlic from a jar, so easy.
Slice the loaf in half the long way and spread the butter mixture evenly over both halves.
Roughly chop some parsley and sprinkle evenly over the halves.
Put the two pieces back together and slice the loaf into pieces.
Wrap the loaf in foil and pop in a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes.
Easy Garlic Bread
Loaf of bread (cibatta, sourdough, french…whatever you like!)
8 Tbs. butter, softened
5 cloves minced garlic
2-3 Tbs. chopped parsley
Serve with the baked pasta and enjoy. Bon appetit!
The baked pasta recipe is an adaptation from Skinnytaste.com