I have been craving pasta, and even though it was a warm summer evening, I decided to be defiant and go ahead and make this wintery meal anyway! Rather than use typical rigatoni I used mezzi rigatoni, which I purchased from a specialty Italian grocer. This macaroni really contributed to the success of the dish, in my opinion. I love the chewy texture and thickness of the pasta. Additionally, the quality and freshness were notably superior to anything found in a local supermarket. (If you don’t already do so, I encourage you to venture into specialty stores, if for nothing else but inspiration! And in the meantime you may find new products you love!)
Also worthy of note: The original recipe called for vodka, however, I don’t always love the taste of alcohol in my food (in my glass is a different story!) so I swapped it out for some beef broth. I love the richness beef broth adds.
I loved this meal! It was delicious and creamy, however, not too rich. There was a nice sweetness to it, and as I said, the texture of the pasta was really satisfying. Served with a fresh salad, a crusty French baguette, and a nice glass of red wine, I found myself completely unafraid of the impending cool weather!
Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage:
- olive oil
- freshly groung salt and pepper
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of beef broth
- 2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes with juice and basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 lbs. mezzi rigatoni (or any tubular pasta)
- 2 10 oz. bags fresh baby spinach
- 24 oz. chicken sausage
- 12 oz. fontina cheese, grated
Bring a large pot of water and salt to a rolling boil.
Remove sausages from casings and cook over med-low heat with some olive oil until sausage is no longer pink. (Do not use a non-stick pan.) Spoon the sausage from the pan into a bowl and set aside. Add onions to pan and cook over med-low heat until soft/translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic to pan and cook another 3 minutes or so, until garlic is soft. Remove pan from heat and add beef broth and deglaze the pan. Return pan back to heat and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and oregano. Cook until tomatoes have fallen apart–about 15 minutes. Stir in cream and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Use pasta water to cook spinach very quickly–this only takes a few seconds. Drain the spinach and the pasta and return both to pot. Add tomato sauce, sausage, and 8 oz. of grated fontina to pot of spinach and pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour into a deep baking dish. Top with remaining grated fontina cheese. Bake covered for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an addition 5-10 minutes.
- This may be made ahead–up until the point of baking–and frozen. Do not thaw before baking.
- This recipe may easily be cut in half, as I doubled the original recipe.