Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baked Pasta with Spinach and Sausage

Lately, I've been enjoying quiet Monday mornings alone because my 4 year old daughter has been going to school everyday for a few hours for summer school. Although I miss her deeply, because I have never been away from her on my days off, I am totally loving the few quiet hours I have to myself. I have every intention of running errands or doing chores during these days. However, its only been a few Mondays that she's been in school. And during those times, I have just laid in bed and enjoyed the quiet calmness of our house.

It was on this recent quiet Monday that I was actually able to watch my shows and not watch anything that had to do with Mickey Mouse or Kai-Lan. It was this recent Monday that I watched an episode of Rachael Ray's Week in a Day on the Cooking Channel and featured a recipe for Baked Ziti with Spinach and Veal. I was drooling. So before I had to pick up my daughter from school, I headed to the supermarket to buy a few ingredients.

After reading a few of the comments, I decided to modify the recipe based on the comments and the result was this yummy and flavorful make-ahead casserole dish. This dish is great because you can make it ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to bake it. However, I find that the dish tends to dry out if you make it ahead rather than bake it off right away. If I decided to make this ahead again, I think I'll be making extra sauce to help make it more creamy.

2 bunches of fresh spinach, washed, dried and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian Turkey sausage, casings removed (or use regular ground turkey)
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped sage leaves
black pepper
1 cup white wine or chicken broth (or 1/2 cup of each)
1 lb. pasta (like penne, farfalle, corkscrew, etc.)
4 Tbsp. butter
3 rounded Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
ground nutmeg to taste
6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and cook pasta 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta if done before sauce.

2) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ground meat. Lightly brown meat and crumble. Add chopped carrot, onion, and sage leaves. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Continue to cook until carrots and onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently.

3) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour for about a minute. Then whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a bubble and season with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Once the sauce has thickened, adjust the nutmeg and black pepper to your liking.

4) To the meat mixture, add chopped spinach and cook until wilted and thoroughly incorporated. Stir in pasta and sauce. Pour mixture in a casserole dish and top with the cheeses.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 deg F. Bake for 35-45 minutes if reheating the dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes if baking immediately. Serve hot.

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