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. When I found this recipe on for Baked Penne with Spinach & Sausage, I 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. It’s super easy to serve with a big fresh salad and will pair with just about any bottle of red, especially a California blend.
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 glass of wine. Or more realistically, you can pour that glass of wine, throw in the laundry, catch up on email, start the dishes and watch last week’s DVR’ed episode of The Office.
- Canola or olive oil, for cooking
- 3 pieces sweet Italian turkey sausages
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 1 can tomato paste
- ¼ cup pesto (fresh or jarred)
- 1 pound (16 ounce box) penne pasta
- 1 10 oz. bag baby spinach leaves
- 1½ cups grated part-skim mozzarella
- ½ - 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 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 ten minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pesto and some salt and pepper.
- 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 and baked from frozen).
- Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes (40 minutes if frozen) until bubbly and golden.