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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pasta Rustica

Most of the time I dictate the menu around the Wilde household.  That's why you see a lot of chicken, plenty of salads and lots of vegetables.  Apparently, man cannot live on healthy food alone!  At least, this is what boyfriend told me this weekend.  When looking through cookbooks, planning my grocery list, I asked what he would like for dinner this week.  He replied "pasta."

Okay, there are lots of pasta options.  My next question was "Hearty or light?"  "Hearty" was the request.  Getting closer, one more question "full of vegetables or cheese?"  Obviously the answer was "cheese."  He's a dude and dudes like cheese.  With those simple guidelines I decided on a hearty, baked pasta dish. 

There were a few things that I decided on for this meal.  The protein is not beef, it's chicken sausage.  There are onions in the sauce, because you can't have a pasta sauce without onions.  Finally, the pasta was served with whole grain garlic bread.

So, with boyfriends suggestions and my finessing, we came out with one delicious meal.  It was even ready in just 30 minutes, which is good, because my train was late getting me home and I was tired!

Pasta Rustica
Adapted from Williams Sonoma - Chicken

Feel free to use your favorite chicken (or turkey) sausage.  You can go with a pre-cooked product, like I did, or you can get the raw sausage.  If you go with raw sausage, be sure to cook the sausage until it is no longer pink before adding the tomatoes.  This meal is big enough for you and someone to enjoy a good dinner and still have enough for both of you for lunch the next day!

Dinner was happily devoured by boyfriend and he even made a suggestion for dinner next week.  I love it when I get suggestions, it makes my life so much easier!

1/2 lb your favorite pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 links chicken sausage (I used spinach & garlic chicken sausage), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
14 oz crushed tomatoes in puree
1/2 cup pasta water
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Cook onions for 3-4 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add chicken and cook to brown on all sides, should take about 8 minutes.  Add basil, oregano, red pepper flake, crushed tomatoes and puree and pasta water.  Cook for 6-8 minutes to reduce the volume by half.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozarella, pasta and pasta sauce.  Add salt to taste.  Pour into an 8x8-inch pan and sprinkle parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or bubbly and melty.  Serve with some garlic bread to complete the carb bonanza!

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