Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Andouille Sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar (This cuts the acidity of the tomatoes while enhancing the natural flavor)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound rigatoni
10 ounces frozen baby spinach, thawed and drained well (can substitute 1 or 2 9-oz. bags fresh spinach)
12 ounces precooked smoked chicken (or turkey) sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I find this in the same section/aisle as the hotdogs next to the precooked kielbasa and chorizo – I use the Johnsonville brand and it is precooked in a U-shape.)
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, 4 ounces cut into 1/2-inch cubes and 4 ounces shredded
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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. Cook for another minute.
Stir in tomatoes, oregano and basil; simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add cream; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until about a minute less than the al dente package directions. (If using fresh spinach, add it to the pot of boiling pasta right at the end and cook until wilted.) Drain, and return contents to pot.
Add tomato sauce, sausage, spinach and cubed mozzarella to the pot; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop pasta into lightly greased 9X13-inch pan (or divide evenly between two 8X8-inch pans). Top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until browned and edges are crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.
NOTES: Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer. Alternately, the dish can be prepared and refrigerated (covered) for up to 12 hours before baking. Bake as directed in the recipe, adding an additional 5-10 minutes if needed.
Tonight, I’m serving with oven baked garlic bread, side salad and fresh fruit compote.