I was driving along in my car the other day, listening, as I most often do, to the Martha Stewart radio station on Sirius radio. It was the Everyday Food show. They were talking about their recipe of the day and this was it. I thought...ok I am game...so I ran to the store to get whatever ingredients I did not have on hand. Of course I did not hear all of the ingredients and the pasta was supposed to be Rigatoni..I used Penne...mea culpa. This was very good...BUT...we did not care for the chicken sausage that I bought. It had a taste that my family did not care for at all. That said, I think this would be great with regular Italian pork sausage cooked, drained of all fat and added to the recipe as directed. In fact this would be really good with no sausage at all. It would make a really nice vegetarian offering. I thought that the sauce tasted a little bit "flat" so I added a good pinch of red pepper flake and some fresh basil that I happened to have in the fridge. I used San Marzano tomatoes that I had in my pantry.
The recipe is nice because it can be divided in half and one half frozen for another day. Now... they say that a pound of pasta feeds 8...not in my house it doesn't. With two teenage boys eating me out of house and home, no way. So I made this into one casserole. I would say that we did get 8 servings for normal people. I have a bit leftover that someone will have for lunch today. I liked the creamy, melty, Fontina. You did not need to use a tremendous amount of cheese. I also liked the method of adding the baby spinach to the pasta water immediately before draining. I just loved the way this looked...I was busy picking at the spinach and pasta all alone... Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage
Prep: 30 minutes Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
This recipe makes two pans of pasta. Serve one tonight, and keep the other in the freezer for up to three months. To freeze, prepare the dish through step 4; let cool completely before covering tightly with plastic wrap and placing in the freezer. If you freeze this dish, do not thaw before baking. Remove plastic wrap, and cover with foil. Cook until heated through, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove foil, and continue with step 5.
* Coarse salt and ground pepper * 1 tablespoon olive oil * 1 medium red onion, chopped * 4 cloves garlic, minced * 1/4 cup vodka (optional) * 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands * 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano * 1/2 cup heavy cream * 1 pound rigatoni * 10 ounces baby spinach * 12 ounces smoked chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick * 6 ounces fontina cheese, 4 ounces cut into 1/2-inch cubes and 2 ounces coarsely grated * 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. 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. Remove from heat; add vodka, if desired. Return to heat; cook until almost evaporated, 1 minute.
2. 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. 3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Add spinach, and cook just until wilted. Drain, and return contents to pot. 4. Add tomato sauce, sausage, and cubed fontina to pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly between two shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dishes. 5. Top with grated fontina and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.