Sausage and Spinach Pasta Bake

  My new semester is quickly approaching, and it’s going to be a busy one.  Monday and Thursday nights I will be in class and Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights I will be tutoring for statistics.  You see the lengths I go to to avoid cooking?

  The Mr. and I both agreed it would be a wise idea to start setting aside some frozen meals so that when things start getting busy, we’ll still eat.  Expect lots of freezer friendly and crock pot recipes for a while.
  Here’s what we’re making tonight:
  I’m including the link to the original recipe above, but I frankly think some of their steps are a little ridiculous, so I’ll explain what I did here.
  Here’s what you need:
  • 8 ounces uncooked rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed 
  • 1 tube hot Italian sausage
  • (14.5-oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • (8 oz.) container chive-and-onion cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese 
  The original recipe wants you to cook your sausage before you even begin.  It also has you use way too many pots and pans for my taste.  Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, I hate doing dishes too.  We’re going to do this with one pan, a cutting board, knife and whatever you bake it in.
  First, boil some water and cook your noodles.  As always, use what you have.  I actually used rigatoni as suggested this time, but any bulky noodle (shell, spiral, elbow) would work.  Cook them until almost done.  Keep in mind that everything is going to be baked, so we don’t want the noodles entirely soft, or they’ll turn to mush.  Drain your noodles and set them aside.  I just leave mine in the strainer in the sink until I need them again.
  Remember how I told you earlier the original recipe expected you to have your sausage magically cooked before you start?  They also have you bake your onions for 15 minutes instead of sauteing them for 5.  After double checking with my official “person who cooks” to verify there was no obvious reason baking would be light years better than sauteing, I threw that instruction out the window.  I heated my olive oil in the same pan I’d just dumped my noodles out of and sauteed my onions at the same time I browned my sausage.  You should start your oven preheating to 375 while you do this.
  Once my onions and sausage were cooked, it was time to add the other ingredients.  I had fully planned on using frozen spinach as the recipe indicates, but the Mr. pointed out that we had a large bag of fresh that was left over from salads…and that it was close to wilting.  So I used that.  Either way is fine.  To use the fresh spinach I simply chopped it into small bits and threw it into the pot with the sausage in batches to cook it down.  Of course, with either fresh or frozen spinach, make sure you get as much water as possible off/out before putting it in your recipe.
  Add your cream cheese, pasta and tomatoes and mix everything together.  Leaving your pan on a slightly warm burner will make the cream cheese easier to mix in.  Place everything into your chosen dish for baking and cover with mozzarella.  I split this recipe between two loaf pans.
  The original recipe suggests baking for 30 minutes covered and then 15 minutes uncovered.  We ignored that completely and baked it for 30 minutes uncovered.  Doing it that way made for a really chewy cheese layer on top, but I rather like it that way.  If you prefer your cheese more melty, give your pan a tinfoil hat.
  This recipe was a hit with everybody, and splitting it into the two loaf pans worked out perfectly.  One pan was the perfect amount for the 3 of us and it kept us from going back for thirds and making ourselves sick just because it tasted good.  The other pan is in the freezer for another night!
  If you enjoy this recipe, please check out some of my other posts.  New recipes go up every Monday and Thursday.  Or, you can subscribe by email (over on the right there) and posts will come straight to your inbox!
  Fellow Stumblers, please don’t forget to give me a thumbs up!
This post is part of Polish the Stars and Home Stories A2Z‘s Link up Parties.

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