This baked pasta recipe is great for a potluck, or to take to someone who is in need of a home-cooked "comfort" meal. It's very flavorful, simple to prepare, and inexpensive to make. You can bake it in the oven or make it in the crockpot (instructions included). I particularly like the blend of fresh and zesty ingredients (spinach, fresh mozarella, pesto and hot sausage). For a fantastic meal, serve it with my Pepperoni Bread (Using Refrigerator Loaf), #291227.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped (1 medium onion)
- 1 lb Italian sausage, hot (or mild if you prefer)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1⁄2 cup red wine
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like Cento brand)
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup pesto sauce, bottled (I use homemade)
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed (or 4 oz. normal mozzarella)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, divided usage
- Preheat oven to 375. Grease a deep lasagna pan (or two 9x9 pans). Crockpot instructions are at the bottom.
- SAUCE: In a large deep saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and saute slowly until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add sausage to pan; continue to saute and break up sausage into bite size pieces. When sausage is just about done, add garlic for a minute or two. Finally, pour red wine into pan and bring wine to a boil to evaporate alcohol and eliminate most of the liquid.
- Add tomatoes to other ingredients. Pour about 1/2 cup water into the tomato can to clean out the can - add this water to the pot. Add pesto. While this simmers about 10 minutes, cook the pasta.
- PASTA: Bring plenty of salted water to boil for pasta (lots of water will prevent sticky pasta). Cook according to package directions; drain.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss hot cooked pasta, chopped fresh spinach and tomato/sausage sauce. DO NOT ADD CHEESE YET. Continue combining hot ingredients until spinach wilts slightly, THEN add cubed mozzarella and 1/2 CUP of the Parmesan cheese. Toss quickly and pour into your prepared baking dish (if you work with the cheese too long, it will become a stringy mess!).
- Sprinkle final 1/2 CUP Parmesan on top.
- Bake 375 for 30 minutes, uncovered, until hot and bubbly.
- CROCKPOT VERSION FOR A CROWD: Double recipe. Make sure pasta is a bit undercooked (slightly firm). Pour into crockpot; add 1 cup hot water around the edges. Cook on HIGH 3 hours.