Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

As you read in my last post, I recently learned that a dear friend used to work for Martha Stewart.  What can I know how I feel about Martha.  I idolize her for many reasons, just as Julie Powell was smitten with Julia Child. What other domestic doyenne could turn an unfortunate incarceration into an opportunity to teach others about her craft and be even more beloved following her release! 

I have a whole library of her books and I used to have every single Martha Stewart Living magazine ever published, but that turned out to be an unrealistic and clutter-inducing obsession, so I recycled them.  Martha would be proud of my desire to keep household order but it brought a little tear to my eye to say goodbye to those periodicals. 

I use Martha's recipes whenever I have an opportunity, just type "Martha" in the search tool to see the hits!  So last week when it was my turn to cook, I honored my one-degree-of-separation friend and said ciao to the last of the cool weather (fingers crossed) with a based pasta casserole dish I found on, Baked Pasta with Chicken sausage.

If you've never had chicken sausage, please try it.  You can use it just like its traditional counterpart and it cooks up beautifully.  My local Co-op offers many varieties of chicken sausage and I often grill the little links right up and serve along side a hearty salad packed with greens, fruit, cheese and nuts.  When cooked in gravy (remember, I'm half Italian!) you can hardly taste the difference.

A couple of changes to this recipe.  I think this was a little dry, so I would add a little more cream to the tomato sauce before incorporating the mixture, maybe as much as a 1/2 cup  (or more vodka!).  Also, I used asiago cheese and it was delicious.  Arugula would be a nice substitution for the would add a peppery flavor.

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage 

by:  Martha Stewart

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup vodka (optional)
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
10 ounces baby spinach
12 ounces smoked chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 ounces fontina cheese, 4 ounces cut into 1/2-inch cubes and 2 ounces coarsely grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grill or pan fry the sausage, slice into bite-size pieces and set aside.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic. Remove from heat; add vodka, if desired. Return to heat; cook until almost evaporated, 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes and oregano; cook until tomatoes are falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Add spinach, and cook just until wilted. Drain, and return contents to pot.

Add tomato sauce, sausage, and cubed fontina to pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly between two shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dishes.

Top with grated fontina and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.

For dessert, we had Banana Coconut Bread and I have an absolutely wonderful Coconut Bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen to share with you!

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