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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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kita September 14, 2011

Oooh yeah, this sounds like my kind of warm and yummy meal!

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2 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen September 14, 2011

Ditalini reminds me of my Italian great-grandmother who would make us soup with that pasta in it when we were sick. I love all the “unusual” pasta shapes. DeCecco and Barilla are the only 2 brands that ever have any of the fun ones!

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3 Elle September 14, 2011

All of my favorite things! Looks so good, Heather. I love trying new past shapes, too. My favorite, I think–is campanelle. http://www.barillaus.com/Products/2/campanelle.aspx They really let the sauce and other goodies tuck inside themselves.

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4 kelley September 14, 2011

This looks great. I love one pot meals. This is such a great dish to take to someone who just had a baby or needs a little help with dinner, thanks for sharing!

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5 Jessica @ How Sweet September 14, 2011

orecchiette is also my favorite pasta! but i really love these little guys too. they are so fun to eat.

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6 KC Quaretti September 14, 2011

What a fun posting! Very similar to what I started making for the kids when they were little. Great and yummy way to introduce their palate to green leafy veggies!

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7 Caitlin @ Cake with Love September 14, 2011

This is such a staple of my childhood, well except the spinach and teh missing bacon :) pasta and cheese made by my mom and grandamother always taste much better than the one I make!!!!

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8 Estela @ Weekly Bite September 14, 2011

Those little pastas are so cute! Love this recipe too :)

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9 janetha September 14, 2011

Yum. I love what happens to pasta when you bake it. With lots of cheese. Those noodles are awesome, why have I never used them?!

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10 Cookin' Canuck September 14, 2011

Ditalini is one of my favorite pastas to use in soups. This baked pasta dish looks like the perfect comfort food.

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11 Maria September 14, 2011

Great comfort food!

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12 Anna @ On Anna's Plate September 14, 2011

I love trying new noodles too :-) When we were in Italy, I think I could have brought back an entire suitcase full of interesting pastas. Sigh.

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13 Lauren at Keep It Sweet September 14, 2011

Yum, I will be making this! I never think to use peas in pasta dishes but it sounds so good.

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14 R @ Learning As I Chop September 14, 2011

Yum! I love your recipes. Always delicious and simple to make.

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15 Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic September 14, 2011

Oooh I love different pasta shapes too! I will pick up some ditalini on my next grocery trip. And yes, cheese is the key to world peace. Plus maybe chocolate.

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16 Aggie September 14, 2011

This looks absolutely delicious. I am a carb lover too. And pasta (& bread) definitely my favorite carb!

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17 Erin September 14, 2011

Ooo I like this a lot!

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18 Carrie {Pure and Yummy} September 14, 2011

This looks and sounds fantastic! I love any and all pasta shapes, trying out new ones is always tons of fun! Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

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19 Diane {Created by Diane} September 14, 2011

Ditalini is such a great pasta shape, it’s been one of my favorites since a friend of mine made me her pasta and peas 20 years ago. She had me over for lunch and whipped it up quick and I’ve loved it ever since. I never tire of pasta, so many ways to make it. This baked spinach and sausage looks wonderful

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20 amypersonally @ mydreamcafe September 14, 2011

I love that you put the pasta in ramekins….great portion control. But knowing me, I would just fill extra ramekins!

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21 Kelsey September 16, 2011

This looks amazing- can’t wait to make it myself!

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22 Ashley September 16, 2011

I’ve never tried that pasta shape before- Picking it up next time I head to the market!

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