Sausage ziti with four cheeses?! A fat family shouldn't be eating this! Is that what you're thinking? Well you're right. This is a fattening, rich, yummy dinner that is perfect for when the in-laws have descended and you have little time in the kitchen, many hungry mouths to fill, and maybe just a little bit too much wine in your belly.
Yes, it's Easter, and the in-laws are down. We had a lovely time in the afternoon gabbing and drinking, and by 6:30pm everyone was hungry for dinner. This was a hit (and super easy to make). Serve it with a green salad and some good warm Pugliese bread.
Sausage Ziti with Four Cheeses
16oz penne rigatoni (penne with ridges)
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 pound Italian sausage links--if you like a little spice, get hot Italian links
1 jar good spaghetti sauce. I liked Classico's "Traditional Sweet Basil" in this.
Four cups fresh spinach, chopped (get the washed and ready to eat kind)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
5 oz bag of shredded mixed "Italian" cheese, including mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone.
Red pepper flakes
Boil water, add salt and oil for cooking pasta. Cook according to directions. While pasta is cooking, in a non-stick skillet at medium, add bulk sausage. Turn up to medium-high heat and brown, breaking up into bits. If your skillet is big enough, add links, and brown those well. You'll be cooking them entirely in the pan, so give them good color and let them cook through. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the pasta liquid. Put pasta in a big bowl--really big, because you're going to be mixing everything in this bowl.
As sausage is done, add it to the pasta. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to lightly grease a 9x13" pan. Add chopped onions to the skillet and brown on medium heat. When brown, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach. If the pan is too dry, add a little of the pasta water. Let the spinach cook down, then add the sauce and heat through. Add red pepper flakes and fresh ground pepper to taste.
In the meanwhile, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cheese and add the rest to the pasta. Toss the pasta to mix through. Now add the sauce and mix thoroughly. Put the pasta in the prepared pan and press it down into the pan. Top with the extra cheese.
Heat in a 400 degree oven for twelve minutes, then put it under the broiler for three minutes to gently brown it.
***Test for seasonings. My in-laws don't like a ton of seasonings so I just kept it simple.