Sausage, Spinach, Squash, and Ricotta Baked Rigatoni
Creating this whole wheat pasta dish by adding locally-raised pork sausage, and organically grown vegetables makes this a crowd pleaser. It’s easy to make ahead of time, or even serve as leftovers another night.
1 package whole wheat rigatoni (if you add the squash, only use ¾ package – it’s plenty.)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound pork sausage, mild or hot (this is locally raised, grass-fed from Backyard Produce)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (feel free to use one 10 ounce package of frozen, thawed and drained if necessary)
2 medium yellow squash, cubed
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup chopped basil (or other fresh herbs – oregano, parsley, etc.)
4 cups marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large part of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package, but do NOT overcook it. It will cook more in the oven, so make sure it’s al dente! Drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until softened (about 5 minutes.) Add the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Cook sausage through (about 5 minutes). Strain fat.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute.) Stir in spinach and marinara sauce. Put on low or remove from heat.
(At this point, I decided I would prefer to put my squash into my casserole than on the side, so I sautéed it for 10 minutes, then mixed it into the pasta. If I did it again, I would add it after the sausage was cooked or boil it with the pasta. Do not cook it as long as the pasta, so it doesn’t overcook.)
Create your ricotta cheese mixture: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, ½ cup parmesan cheese, half of the mozzarella cheese (1 cup), and chopped basil.
In large pasta pot, combine cooked pasta and sausage mixture. Stir to coat.
Pour half of pasta in a greased 11 x 13 baking dish. Dollop the ricotta mixture on top, then spread evenly.
Cover with the rest of pasta mixture.
Top off with more parmesan or the rest of the mozzarella. Cover with Tin Foil.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, covered, then an additional 5-10 without the cover until the cheese is melted.
(If you want to make this ahead of time, just refrigerate or freeze it after covering the dish.)