If you ever need to make dinner for someone you want to impress, without a) potentially screwing up said dinner cause the instructions are complicated or b) spending hours in the kitchen while your dinner guests drink wine, eat cheese and have fun without you, then you need look no further.
I found this recipe on Dinner with Julie for Baked Penne with Spinach & Sausage and immediately knew that it would be right up my alley.
A little bit of store-bought pesto goes a long way towards adding unique flavor to the tomato sauce and when baked with fresh, hand-grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese, you’ll forget that you’ve ever ordered pasta from a restaurant and probably never will again.
The best part? It’s truly easy. A lot of Italian cooking involves chopping, slicing, dicing and stirring but with this dish, all you need to do is chop the onion, garlic and sausage, combine the sauce, throw it all together and pop it in the oven. You could even make this on the weekend, freeze it and pull it out during the week for a fast, fresh dinner.
While it bakes you can enjoy a crisp glass of Prosecco or sparkling wine and catch up with your friends or loved ones after a long day. Okay, okay…who am I kidding? While it bakes, you can throw in the laundry, catch up on email, start the dishes and watch last week’s DVR’ed episode of The Office.
Baked Penne with Sausage and Spinach
Canola or olive oil, for cooking
2 lean chicken and apple or Italian sausages, squeezed out of their casings
1 onion, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. (540 mL) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup pesto (out of a jar)
3 cups penne, rigatoni or rotini pasta (preferably a whole wheat or brown rice variety)
1 10 oz. bag baby spinach leaves
1 ½ cups grated part-skim mozzarella
1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the sausage, onion and garlic, breaking up the meat until the sausage is cooked through. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pesto and some salt and pepper.
2. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain it well and toss it with the spinach (coarsely tear the spinach up with your hands as you add it), mozzarella and about half the Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the hot tomato sauce, which will slightly wilt the spinach. Divide among baking dishes or aluminum containers (it should be enough to fill one 9”x13” pan) and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. (At this point the dish can be cooled completely, covered and frozen for up to 4 months. Bake from frozen.)
3. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes (40 if frozen) until bubbly and golden. If you want to make it ahead, cool completely before covering and transferring to the freezer for up to 3 months, then bake it from frozen, adding about 15 extra minutes of baking time.
Now, onto a few housekeeping items:
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Worknight Dinners:: From this point on, please check back here every Sunday for a new Worknight Dinners recipe. These meals will be fast, easy, healthy and hearty. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or if you think you’re a disaster in the kitchen, Sunday’s worknight dinners will offer recipes that even the novice home chef can conquer.
See’s Candies Giveaway: Thanks to Random.org, I played it fair and chose a random integer to select the winner of last week’s contest. Congratulations to Kat from A Good Appetite! Kat and her husband love to cook and eat, so their blog is definitely one worth exploring. Aside from mouth-watering recipes, Kat shares her weekly menu plan to inspire all of us.