Oh, this dish is yummy. My sister-in-law, Melanie G., (from ‘Mel’s Kitchen Cafe’ ) posted this on her blog about a year ago. (Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food.) The sausage in it is delicious, and we love the combo with tomatoes and spinach. Jed and I especially like how the noodles and mozzarella along the top get a little crunchy while cooking. Mmmm…
I usually freeze half of this for a later dinner. Although it’s not as good frozen then cooked as it is served fresh, it’s still a delicious dinner when I’m in a pinch, and the convenience of having a pan in the freezer is wonderful! I have only ever tried it with fresh spinach; I would highly encourage using fresh spinach rather than frozen. Frozen just isn’t nearly the same; it has a different flavor and texture, and I don’t think it would be nearly as good.
I actually have a history with this recipe. We go way back. Or, actually, we go 8 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days back. You see, when I was just about 9 months pregnant with my baby, I decided to make this for dinner one night. (The pic on the right was from this night.) I was being a lazy-bones that week when it came to making dinner, and so I hadn’t been expending that much energy in the kitchen for a few days leading up to this. Anyway, after preparing this I felt wiped out, like I had just made this gourmet dinner and had been on my feet for hours. In fact, I was totally physically exhausted from the effort, and it didn’t get better after I’d eaten. Oh no, it got worse. I started to feel kind of weird, and do you know what?! Making this meal actually put me into labor! Here’s the funny part – From this experience I got it into my head that this was a really labor-intensive meal. Then I made it again a few months later. Nope. It’s actually extremely easy. It makes me wonder – Was I really that much of a slug when I was pregnant that I thought making this was such a huge undertaking? Hmmm…
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28-oz) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands (or crushed tomatoes)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
10 oz baby spinach–I double the spinach and use 2 9-oz bags fresh (or 2 10-oz bricks frozen)
12 oz smoked chicken (or Jennie-O turkey) sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced
¼ inch thick
6 ounces fontina (or mozzarella) cheese, 4 oz cut into ½ -inch cubes and 2 oz coarsely grated
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic. Cook for another minute.Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook until tomatoes are falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Add spinach, and cook just until wilted. Drain, and return contents to pot.
Add tomato sauce, sausage, and cubed fontina to pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly between two shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dishes. Top with grated fontina and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.
If you freeze half in a 9×9 pan, you can put it straight from the freezer into a 400° oven for about 45 minutes, or until browned and hot throughout.