Who’s ready for some melty, cheesy goodness in their bellies this weekend?! Well, you’ll be happy to know you’ve come to the right place. This week’s Foodie Friday is one of my all-time favorite easy recipes– baked ziti with spinach and Italian sausage. It comes from Bon Appetit circa 1994, and FYI… Bon Appetit Magazine is one of my cooking bibles. My mom has had a subscription to their magazine for as long as I can remember and they never disappoint. This one is a definite crowd pleaser… I once served it to a group of eight full grown men (shout-out Townhouse 15!) and they devoured it in minutes.
What you’ll need: 3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage; 1 medium onion, chopped; 3 large garlic cloves, chopped; one 28oz. can diced peeled tomatoes; 1/4 cup pesto sauce, purchased or homemade; 10 oz. (about 3 cups) ziti or penne pasta, freshly cooked; 8 cups spinach leaves (about 2/3 of a 10oz. package); 6 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed or shredded; 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (separated).
First, heat a big heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Also, begin to boil a pot of water for your pasta. Also, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. While your kitchen’s getting all good and steamy, chop up your onion and garlic. Take this moment to have a good cry if you need to– it’s quite therapeutic and everyone will think it’s all about the onion.
While you’re at it, remove the sausages from their casings. Throw the onions, garlic, and sausage into your saucepan and break up the meat with the back of a spoon. Do this until the sausage is cooked through, which should take about 10 minutes. Try to have your pasta in the pot of boiling water by now– you want it to still be hot when you mix it with the cheese and other ingredients! (Side note: make sure to always throw a bit of salt into your water before you cook any pasta!)
Now that the meat is cooked through, add the can of diced tomatoes to your saucepan. Let it all simmer down for about 10 more minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit. Be sure to check on it to make sure it’s not boiling and stir it around every once in a while (food needs love, too, you know). After 10 minutes, add your pesto and season the whole thing with salt and pepper.
Hey, look who decided to show up to help!
Thanks for making the time, Emma girl. At this point, your pasta should be just about done (I completely forgot it was in the pot for about 20 minutes the first time I tried this recipe…). Drain the pasta and mix it in a large bowl with the spinach, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese. Next, add the hot tomato sauce and mix until the spinach begins to wilt a bit. Pour the whole thing into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish, and sprinkle the leftover Parmesan cheese on top (about 2/3 cup). Throw it in the oven and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese and sauce is nice and bubbly and the top starts to get golden brown.
(If you’re bored while it’s baking, take a minute to check out the Bon Appetit website. I can’t tell you enough how awesome they are…!)
When it’s done, take it out of the oven, pop a bottle of red, and try not to eat the whole thing all by yourself (on second thought, go for it! You did all the work, after all).
Happy cooking! Until next time.