Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach

Folks, I feel bad. Last week, I left you with a food dish I can't recommend and a cook book (although, the cook book I'm pretty excited about). Where are all the delicious dinners?! I know, I know. I hear you.

I'm pulling out all stops today... this is a winner! And I've got more coming up. Honestly, I probably could have gotten back into regular blog posting and more on track sooner, just with regard to the time I have. But it's not just about having the time to post, or cook. I simply haven't been motivated to cook. I've been tired (mentally and physically). I see the light at the end of our tunnel though. In addition to our big move, we've been readying our rental house for new tenants who move-in later this week (yay!). With that additional project done, I'm starting to get my groove back and have been doing my usual drooling over yummy recipes online. Doesn't this peach pie look divine?!

Dinner before dessert though... and this Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach recipe is a delish dish for your next main meal. It originally called for chicken or sausage, and I swapped that out for the soy crumbles found at the grocery store next to the tofu and pre-packaged lettuce. Worked like a charm! My meat eating dinner guests didn't have any problems with it and all gave it a thumbs up. The pasta sauce had such a nice flavor (mixing pesto and tomato, genius!) and was so easy, I plan to use it on spaghetti when I want something with more pizazz.

More, please!

Even my 'greens hater' husband liked the spinach in this dish. You can lessen or increase the spinach amount as you see fit. I used the recipe amount and found it perfect. Remember, spinach wilts A LOT when cooked, so you'll end up with 1/4 (or less) of what you see fresh.

Enjoy my friends. I'm back!

Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach
adapted from In Good Taste

Canola or olive oil, to cook with
3/4 cup Smart Choice soy crumbles (aka - Faux Sausage)
1 onion, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. (540 mL) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup pesto (out of a jar)
3 cups uncooked penne, rigatoni or rotini pasta (preferably a whole wheat or brown rice variety)
1 10 oz. bag baby spinach leaves
1 ½ cups grated part-skim mozzarella
1/2 - 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Getting ready for the oven

In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the soy crumbles, onion and garlic until heated through and onion begins to turn translucent (approx. 4-5 minutes). Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pesto and some salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain it well and toss it with the spinach (coarsely tear the spinach up with your hands as you add it), mozzarella and about half the Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the hot tomato sauce, which will slightly wilt the spinach.

Divide among portion size baking dishes (you could eat half and freeze half*), aluminum containers (to gift a serving size, nice folks that we are - ha), or one 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

*At this point the dish can be cooled completely, covered with foil (I also like to add a layer of saran wrap on top, pressed directly onto the pasta to avoid freezer burn. But don't forget to remove it before you bake the dish!) and frozen for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen.

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes (40 if frozen - so the recipe says. I usually find frozen pasta takes at least 30 minutes extra to cook through, but test it yourself after 15 minutes and keep going until it's done) until bubbly and golden. Serves 6-8.

Guten appetit!

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