Baked Pasta with Sausage and Spinach, Part I

Here it is. “Baked Pasta with Sausage and Spinach” This is a follow up to the sauce post I did. Both Erin and I are trying this recipe to compare and see what we changed and will change next time we make it.
Here they are. These are all the ingredients for this recipe minus the sauce. You could make this way healthier by replacing the cheeses with low fat or no fat versions and the pasta with a low carbohydrates or high fiber versions. The original recipe calls for these. I opted for the full low fat instead of no fat ricotta cheese.
Mix up the cheese and set this aside. Go ahead taste it. I added a little salt and pepper at this point.
Take the chicken sausage out of the casing, brown and cut into little chunks. It actually tastes pretty good. I was expecting something more bland and blah.
Add the sauce you prepared or your favorite jar stuff along with the drained spinach. This is when it starts to smell really good in the kitchen.
Layer it up following the directions I added at the end of the post. I should have used a deeper pan but too late at this point. Looks good enough to me as is.
Cover it up and cook it for about 20 minutes covered then another few minutes uncovered to completely melt the cheese. I put it under the broiler for a few to give it some color. This here is why i needed a deeper dish or thinner layers. The cheese stuck a little to the foil (that is now in the recycle bin). But I added a little to the stuck spots and here it is. Looks good right?
Ready for the pass and onto the table.

  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 8 oz fat-free ricotta
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 14 oz uncooked sweet Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing
  • 12 oz high-fiber or low carb rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic, roughly chopped
  • 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 4 cups Quick Marinara Sauce
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9- x13-inch baking dish with olive oil spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 6 tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, brown the sausage breaking up into small bits until cooked through; set aside. Add the oil to the skillet and saute garlic about a minute, careful not to burn. Add spinach and season with a little salt and pepper and cook another minute. Return the sausage to the skillet and add the marinara sauce; cook on low about 2-3 minutes.
When the pasta water comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions for al dente, but under cook them by 4 minutes less; drain and return to pot.
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. Cover 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.

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