Cheesy Baked Pasta with Spinach and Italian Sausage
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large white or yellow onion, diced
1 bag frozen spinach, mostly thawed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
red pepper flakes
1 (14 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14 oz) can diced or crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons Melanie’s Medleys Tomato Basil Cream Cheese (can substitute with tomato paste if unable to find)
4 oz. Melanie’s Medleys Spinach Feta Dip
2 bay leaves
12 oz dried pasta (about 3/4 box) we used Rigatoni but you can use another small pasta
8 oz shredded Mozzarella
Heat oven to 425F. Heat oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casing (if applicable) and crumble sausage into skillet, using a spoon to break up into small pieces. Cook until starting to brown, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, oregano and red red pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes then add in garlic and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in Tomato basil cream cheese (or tomato paste) and toss sausage to coat, scraping bottom of pan. Then add tomato sauce, crushed/diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper and bay leaves. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Add in spinach and cook for about two minutes. Stir in Spinach Feta dip then add uncooked pasta and 1 cup of water and return to a simmer. Simmer about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure pasta doesn’t stick to bottom of pan and is evenly coated in sauce. Remove from heat and fold in about 1/3 of mozzarella.
Top pasta with remaining mozzarella and transfer to oven. Bake until pasta is tender and cheese is bubbly and golden, about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with fresh basil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and extra red pepper flakes (if desired). Enjoy!