This pasta recipe is the ultimate in comfort food. While the wind is howling, how could anyone pass up on cheesy pasta with big hunks of spicy sausage? My family loves this—and I love to make the whole recipe, baking half to serve the same day and putting the other half in the freezer to pull out when I'm busy. Serve with a tossed green salad and some garlic bread for a wonderful winter meal.
1 1/2 lbs (750g) good quality Italian sausage, either hot or mild-your choice!
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
1 jar (798 ml) of your favorite jarred tomato pasta sauce
213 ml (about 3/4 cup) chili sauce
1 tsp each basil, oregano, and fennel seeds
500g (or 5 cups) penne
1 ten ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the real stuff, it's better)
Squeeze the sausages out of their skins and brown the meat in a skillet until cooked through. Remove to plate. Pour most of the fat from the pan, except about 1 tbsp. Brown the onions, garlic and pepper over medium heat in the pan until softened, stirring to make sure the onions and garlic don't brown. Stir in the pasta sauce, chili sauce, basil, oregano, and fennel seeds. Bring sauce to a bubble, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Return the sausage to the pan, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the sausage is cooked through and everything is warm and bubbly.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, sauce, spinach, and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Make sure to break apart the spinach as you add it into the dish, otherwise it will stay in clumps. Spoon into a 9x13 inch baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheeses over top. Rip off a piece of foil to cover the dish with and grease one side. Lay the foil over top of the dish greased side down and pinch the sides so it stays on. The greased foil will keep the cheese from sticking to it.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the dish is hot and bubbly.
Note: The servings on this recipe are quite generous and we often find that half a batch of this is more than enough for our family of three. You could still make the sauce and assemble, but divide the pasta into two different casserole dishes and overwrap one well with foil before freezing for a few weeks. Pull it out and thaw in your fridge for a day, then bake at 350 until heated through.
Recipe adapted from Canadian Living