Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage

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.

Recipe notes:

  • 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.

 

Recipe adapted from Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage by Martha Stewart found here on marthastewart.com

 

 

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