Baked Pasta with Tomatoes, Sausage, Fennel, and Spinach
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- Serves 6-8
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 Italian sausage links, cooked and sliced into rounds
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
1 (10 ounce) package Backyard Farms Cocktail Tomatoes, quartered
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 lb pasta (I used rotini, any slender/tube shape pasta will work)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 cups ricotta cheese
Need a fresh idea for your next office potluck party or family gathering? Try this hearty and flavorful idea from Liz at Floating Kitchen that's as easy to transport as it is to prepare!
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sliced sausage rounds and cook until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a clean plate and set aside.
Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet and stir in the sliced fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel has started to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, salt, black pepper and nutmeg and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the spinach and cook until it’s wilted down, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add back the reserved sausage rounds. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Do not overcook the pasta. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the cubed mozzarella cheese and all of the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta.
Transfer the pasta into your prepared baking dish. Then dollop spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese on top, gently folding some of it into the pasta without overmixing (you want pockets of ricotta remaining). Transfer the baking dish to your pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes. The sauce should be bubbling around the edges of the baking dish and the top of the pasta should be browned.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and let the baked pasta rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 2-3 days.