Baked Pasta with Spicy Tomato & Sausage Sauce
Here’s my tried and true recipe for hosting “Team Dinners”. Yes, you can double this recipe, add a couple of loaves of garlic bread, and a ginormous tossed salad and you’re good for the entire girls’ JV2 soccer team OR the JV boys basketball team—just not on the same night! Don’t forget LOTS of soda for the kids!
Normally, it feeds 6-8 really hungry people!
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed (many grocers offer this packaged like ground meat)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (4-5 is OK!)
- 2 26-ounce boxes Pomi brand or other marinara sauce (Classico Basil & Tomato is OK)
- 6 TBS Pesto (Costco’s Cibo is perfect! If you double recipe, use 1/2 jar)
- Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
The rest of it
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/2 pound smoked Gouda or mozzarella cheese, finely diced
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, for about 5 minutes, or until no pinkness remains. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until softened, stirring frequently to evenly cook the onion. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. stir in the pesto, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Set aside.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain well.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of the pan.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta with the remaining sauce, diced cheese, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the spinach leaves, mixing wiell to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining 2/3 cup of Parmesan cheese on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the casserole begins to bubble and the cheese is browned.
This can be prepared up to 2 days ahead through Step 4, covered, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.