Cheesy Baked Spinach and Sausage Pasta

by Heather on September 14, 2011

I love trying new noodles.

Is anyone else with me on this?  There’s something about a new noodle shape that I find akin to a new pair of shoes.  OK, that’s taking a little too far – new shoes are pretty awesome.  Maybe closer to trying a new hair product?  Exciting and full of promise, but if you don’t like it the world won’t end and you can always go buy something different at the store later anyway.  Yes, that sounds more like it.

 

Although for me, pasta is going to be good pretty much regardless because, well, it’s pasta.  And if I haven’t made it evident what a carb-lover I am then I apologize.  This is not a place that you find carb-free food.  This is a place that says it’s OK to compare food to hygiene products and new shoes.  It’s a safe place.

As always with our dinners though, as much as I just want to stick with the gooey cheesiness, I do try to fit in healthier versions of most things (i.e. turkey sausage…but don’t hate on the pork!) and add some nutrient-rich veggies in there too.  We welcome spinach and peas with open arms, and even give ‘em a big ol’ bear hug in some cheesy creamy sauce.  It makes them happy, it makes my mouth happy, and we all get along splendidly.

 

Cheese is the key to world peace and happiness.

So, what did I think of the ditalini pasta?  Besides the fact that it’s pasta and I’m sure to eat it anyway?  Delicious!  I love the little bites of pasta in between the spinach, peas, and sausage.  They’re the perfect size that allows you to lose some of them in the mix, but also large enough to stand their ground.  I would say that any small cut pasta would be good though…especially my all-time favorite orecchiette.  Which, let’s face it, might be my “favorite” because it’s name is cool to say and makes me sound fancy.

 

OH-RECK-EE-ET-TAY.

CHEESY BAKED SPINACH AND SAUSAGE PASTA

  • 2/3 pound small-cut pasta (choose your favorite)
  • 1 pound turkey sausage
  • 2 heaping cups chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used nonfat and it worked great)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded, plus another 1/4 cup for the top
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400.  Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving it al dente.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and cook and crumble the sausage, making sure to cook it all the way through.  Remove from pan leaving any drippings in the pan.  Saute the onion in the drippings for 6-7 minutes until cooked all the way through and tender.  Add the butter and melt, then add the flour.  Whisk together and let the flour cook out, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk and the seasonings, being sure that everything is well mixed.  Let it simmer for about 5 minutes or so until thickened to the point that it coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and stir in the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of parmesan.  Add the spinach let it sit for a few minutes to allow the spinach to wilt.  Stir in the sausage and peas.  Pour into prepared ramekins OR a large baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray.  Coat the top of the pasta with the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan and bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Then increase the heat to broil and broil until the cheese on top is golden and bubbly and brown.  Serve hot!

Like I said, cheese is the key to world peace.  Although pasta isn’t doing so bad for itself either!

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