Baked Penne with Italian Sausage and Spinach
Whenever I have a free Sunday at home I try to get at least a little bit of food prep done to make weeknights a little less hectic and stressful. I usually make things that can be cooked ahead of time and used for leftovers throughout the week, or recipes that can be mostly put together and cooked another day. This recipe is a bit of both. When I made this recipe last weekend, I assembled the pasta dish on Saturday and baked it to have in the fridge for the week on Sunday. This makes quite a large baking dish, but any leftovers make quick and easy lunches for the rest of the week.
When I’m looking for recipe ideas, Skinnytaste is another one of my go to websites. I often try to modify recipes to make them a little bit healthier, but with Skinnytaste most of the modifications have been made for me already. I’ve made the original recipe off the website, but this time I wanted to change things up a bit by adding Italian sausage. The Italian sausage adds a nice zing of flavour, but is absolutely not necessary. The original recipe makes an excellent meatless main that contains a decent amount of protein because of the different cheeses and whole wheat pasta. Using frozen spinach is a great way to add an extra vegetable to the meal without changing the flavour of the dish. This can be a great weeknight meal since it can be put together ahead of time, but it is also fancy enough for company and entertaining.
Adapted from Skinnytaste Baked Ziti with Spinach
375 grams uncooked whole wheat penne
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
500 grams Italian sausage with casing removed
10 oz packaged frozen spinach, thawed
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
pepper to taste
2 cups grated Mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Ricotta cheese or Cottage cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to the instructions on the box. Undercook pasta by 3-4 minutes as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and return to pot.
3. Meanwhile, in a large pot or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned, breaking into smaller pieces as it cooks.
4. Once meat is brown, add crushed tomatoes and spinach. Season with pepper, oregano and basil. Once sauce has boiled, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 5 minutes.
5. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix to combine. Add the parmesan, ricotta, and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Mix well and transfer to 9×13 baking pan.
6. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted and edges are starting to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
This is an excellent dish to prepare the day before or earlier in the day to make dinner prep a little bit easier. If you are preparing this dish ahead of time, complete steps 2-6, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to heat it through for dinner. Bake in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45-50 minutes or until mozzarella is melted and edges are starting to brown.