Tuesday, January 25, 2011

super simple, comforting baked rigatoni with spinach

I am thinking my friends in the Northeast-- or at least New Canaan-- are looking for a super simple, comforting meal this week. Between the snow, freezing temps, and school delays we moms are just about ready to snap. (OK fine, maybe I am only speaking for myself.) In any case, if you're looking for a comforting supper that can be whipped up in mere minutes then popped into the oven, this is a good one.

This recipe was one of the comments left on the table talk post. Janet said that this is one of her family's go-to meals, so I thought I'd try making it for my family last night. It was a hit and makes more than one dish, so you can freeze a few more meals for busy days (which is always a bonus in my book). Here's my version of this comforting meal. I went light on the pasta, heavier on the spinach and ricotta but you can modify the pasta to spinach ratio to your family's tastes, and choose to use real sausage, or other fillings as well:

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach & Cheese
(makes at least 12 servings, see pic below)

one 1lb box rigatoni, cooked according to package

2 lbs frozen spinach, thawed and drained
two 1 lb tubs ricotta cheese
4 eggs
10 frozen garlic cubes
10 frozen basil cubes

dried oregano
1 tube sun-dried tomato paste
1 package Italian Soy "Sausage" (4 sausages, rough chopped)*
three 26 oz jars pasta sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella/Parm + extra for on top

While the pasta is cooking, in a large mixing bowl combine all other ingredients: ricotta, eggs, garlic, basil, oregano, tomato paste, sausages, and one of the jars of pasta sauce and a few hearty handfuls of shredded cheese, saving some to go on top. You can mix all three jars of the pasta sauce in if you want, but my bowl was getting full, so I just mixed one jar in and topped each of the baking dishes with a layer of sauce, and then some shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until warmed through and top is golden brown.

This will freeze perfectly. Simply wrap tightly (I do a layer of Saran wrap and then tin foil). When ready to cook, put the baking dish in the oven as it's heating up (to avoid shocking the dish with a temp change) and double the cook time, so bake it for 1 1/2 hours, covering with a bit of foil if the top starts to get too brown.

*my husband claims that I "should have just used regular sausage instead of the fake stuff". I thought it was delicious. You can make the call on that.

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