Not everyone reading this blog wants to follow my current low-cal craze, so if you've got the urge to splurge, especially since the temps have dropped here in the Northeast, here's a recipe for you to cook up this weekend.
My husband's birthday was last week, and because it was chilly and rainy on Saturday, I indulged D's love for my baked pasta. My master recipe is below, but know that this is an easy one to riff off of if you want to. Does your crew like mushrooms? Quarter some nice buttons and throw them in. Other veggies? Zucchini perhaps? Would be great in here. Love a particular type of cheese? Add more of that, please! This is the basic version, which is what I usually make. We have a nice spinach salad with Dijon vinaigrette on the side, and of course, crusty bread from Iggy's. Bon appetit!
Sarah's Pasta Bake1 lb. whole wheat pasta - any fun shape that's rather large 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese 1.5 c. shredded Italian cheese blend (try to find one without mozzarella so you're not doubling up) 1.5 jars Classico Four Cheese pasta sauce 1 lb. Italian sausage 1 huge yellow onion, or a couple smaller ones, diced 1 T. bottled crushed garlic (or more if you're a garlic lover)
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove the sausages from their casings and add them to a large skillet that's been lightly coated with a little olive oil. Start breaking the sausage apart to brown it, and once it's gotten going, add the onion and garlic. Cook this until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are translucent.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it's a little less than al dente - it should taste slightly under-done. It'll cook up more in the oven with the sauce, and you don't want soggy pasta, do you? As a certain 6-year-old would say, "eeeeeeew!" Drain this and return it to the pan.
Add the sausage/onion/garlic mixture to the pasta along with all your sauce and mix the whole mess together gently in the pot.
Spray a 9X13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Put a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta mixture into the pan, then scatter some of your cheeses over the top. Add more pasta mixture, more cheese, etc. until you use up both - it really doesn't matter if you have cheese on top or not.
Cover this with foil and throw it in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until it seems to be getting warmed through. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes or so, or until the top gets browned and crusty.
Remove from oven and eat it up! This'll serve approximately 6 people as an entree, depending on the appetites of those you're feeding.
A couple of notes: You can assemble this ahead of time, cover it, and put it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Remove it about 1 hour before you want to bake it and let the casserole come to room temperature. Follow the baking directions above . . . this is great for get-togethers where you actually want to visit with your guests.
I have two favorite sources for sausage. Either DePasquale's in Newton, or the garlic rosemary sausages from Formaggio in Cambridge. Both of these are intensely flavorful sausages - you get a lot of bang for your buck with these. Both are housemade and therefore super fresh. But use whatever's your favorite in here, and if you want to make your life even easier, buy bulk so you don't have to peel off the casings.