So we had a rare but welcomed warm February day today in Cleveland. I was tempted to toss burgers on the grill but had all the makings for this baked pasta recipe and decided to give it a whirl. Let's just say that after dinner, Chris stood up to proclaim that this was one of the BEST dishes I've ever made. I think he was just hungry from playing with the kids outside but I'll take my props when I can get them. The secret is in the pesto-laced sauce and the glorious cheeses so I look for them at inexpensive places like Trader Joe's. As you can see from the recipe, play around with the cheeses to suit your taste. I'm not typically a fan of smoked cheeses but it did add a nice flavor so don't be shy.
Sausage-Spinach Baked Pasta
1 lb. mild or hot Italian sausage
2-3 Tlbs. olive oil
1 onion - chopped
3 garlic cloves - minced
2 26oz. Pomi brand (in box) marinara sauce
6 Tbls. prepared pesto sauce
1 lb. penne pasta
8 oz. either smoked mozzarella or smoked Gouda - shredded (I used Gouda)
8 oz. Fontina - shredded
8 oz. either diced fresh mozzarella or 8 oz. ricotta (I used fresh mozzarella)
1 cup Parmesan
1 6oz. package of fresh spinach
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook sausage until browned and cooked through. Drain. Saute onions and garlic in oil in dutch oven or deep saucepan. Add marinara sauce and pesto to onions and garlic. Add sausage back into sauce and simmer on low for 15minutes. Cook pasta according to package. Lightly cover a 9 x 13 pan with sauce. Combine cooked pasta, smoked cheese, fresh mozzarella or ricotta and (uncooked)spinach. Pour into 9 x 13 and top with Parmesan cheese and any extra smoked or fresh mozzarella if desired. Bake for 20- 30 minutes until brown and bubbling. Enjoy!