Rigatoni with Spinach and Sausage

In my last post, I mentioned that I would like to live closer to Sara from imafoodblog so that I could drop by for dinner. Since that isn’t an option at the moment, I thought the next best thing would be to make one of the recipes I’ve seen on her blog. A few weeks ago she posted a recipe for a pasta dish she found in Bon Appetit magazine that looked and sounded so good that I knew I just had to make it.

When it comes to marinara sauce, I’m a little picky but also lazy. I have made homemade sauce a few different times but have yet to find a recipe that convinced me all that simmering and chopping was worthwhile. If I’ve made a Trader Joe’s run recently, I will use one of their boxes of “starter sauce” with some fresh basil which is almost as easy as just opening a jar and pouring but tastes fresher than any other pre-made sauce I’ve found. More times than not, however, our pasta ends up covered in some sort of jarred sauce.

Have you noticed that there is a huge variety of types and brands of spaghetti sauce? Everything from economy-sized cans to pricey bags of organic sauces. You can get your sauce flavored with meat, cheese, mushroom, garlic, whatever you want! I think, at one time or another, I have tried just about every brand and variation on sauce available. I tend to stick with the traditional ones since anything with meat or meatball or sausage scares me. (Is that stuff really shelf-stable?) Simple tomato and basil is good for me, thanks. Some are thick and sweet, others are thin and bland. Slate did a really interesting taste-testing of store-bought marinara sauces called “Marinara Madness” if you would like to see how your stand-by sauce holds up.

Now, I don’t claim to be the “cleanest” eater by any sense of the imagination, but, I have been making the conscious effort to be more aware of ingredient labels. I am sometimes shocked to turn a product around and find an ingredient list three miles long. I would like to say that this always forces me to put the product down, but, in the fairness of full disclosure, that is not always the case. There are certain foods that, I guess, I’m able to convince myself are OK even though the ingredient list reads like my Chemistry Lab MSDS notebook. Hopefully one day that will change, but, in the mean time, I’m taking baby steps. There are some things that I just can’t justify having a complex ingredient list, however. Marinara sauce is one of those things. It should be tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices. The end. Maybe a little oil or sugar or salt or wine. Sure we all have different preferences, but, I think we can agree that marinara sauce shouldn’t need red dye. I mean, tomatoes are a pretty shade of red, right? Why would tomato sauce need dye??

I find that my general eating and shopping habits are a product of compromise between what I want to eat and make versus what is realistic and affordable. This is why I usually end up with a jar of sauce; coming home after school to make a spaghetti dinner from scratch versus spending two minutes actual in-kitchen time for dried pasta and jarred sauce is not realistically going to happen. At least, it didn’t sound like something that would happen until I came across this recipe.

Yes, there is some chopping involved, even some simmering, but it is still a quick weeknight meal. I don’t mind 30 minutes of simmering since that is when I can catch up on my Google Reader! You can also make the sauce ahead of time to make it even easier if that works better in your schedule, and, trust me, you will want to fit this in your schedule somehow. It was amazing. Ryan isn’t quite as enthusiastic about pasta as I am so anytime I am serving some variation of “spaghetti”, he isn’t at his happiest. I kind of like when he goes into a meal with low expectations though because that means if he does end up liking it, it’s a huge surprise. After he took one bite he looked at me, and I could see the surprise on his face. He was in love. In love with a bowl of pasta. Imagine that. We fought over the leftovers. Seriously. I won, by the way. But don’t feel sorry for him: I had already made him a batch of the Stuffed Zucchini he loved so much so his lunches were covered.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe which is reflected in what I’ve written below. For Sara’s version, please visit her blog.

Rigatoni with Spinach and Sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 links of Italian chicken sausage, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
13 ounces whole wheat rigatoni
2 cups (packed) fresh spinach, stemmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage, fennel, and red pepper flakes; cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Stir pasta, spinach, basil, and oregano into tomato sauce. Simmer until spinach wilts, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Source: original recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, June 2008; adapted by Sara at imafoodblog.com

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October 5, 2009. recipes.

One Comment

  1. Sara replied:

    yay! Yours looks great, and I am happy to hear the pickiest eater ever also liked it. Now I want to make this again.

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