Sausage, Spinach, and Pepperoni Pasta Bake
8 ounces penne rigate
8 ounces Italian sausage
1 ounce pepperoni rounds, quartered
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces spinach, steamed and finely chopped
4 ounces shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Set aside.
In the meantime, heat large deep skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and pepperoni. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, the reserved cup of pasta water (or 1 cup hot water), basil, oregano, salt, and spinach and stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella on top and toss through to mix, if desired.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve.
This recipe was really a happy accident. A few months ago, I was trying to create something for the Saturdays Steve and I were hiking/working out on the deer lease, something that I could prep on Friday, store, then throw in the oven on Saturday when we got back. I happened very randomly to have a bag of pepperoni in the house and a small bag of mozzarella and thought this might be a good way to use them. And you know what? WE LOVED IT. We loved it so much I made it every weekend after for a couple of months. It is now a lifelong staple/favorite dinner. FYI: this probably serves four people, but after our 12-hour days working outdoors, we split this in two and devour it ourselves.
Also: I realize this is unusually light on the cheese for a baked pasta, but it is meant to be. I have a longtime recipe for lasagna (not posted) and one for hearty Baked Ziti, both with ricotta, parmesan, and loads of mozzarella, and we love them both, but this pasta bake is meant to be something different – and we absolutely love it just as it is. I hope you do too!