Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sausage Parmesan Baked Pasta!

I am definitely lagging this month on the cooking/baking front... where has the time escape to?! Probably because the weather has gotten considerably warmer and therefore less desire to be in a heated kitchen and probably because of warmer weather that outside activities have begin to manifest itself...who knows...

I have a love/hate relationship with summertime. I love the fact that the days are longer, I can get up at 6/7 am and not worry about it being cold and dark. I like getting my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning so its great since I wake up fairly early to be able to do that. However....the heat that comes with this season is sometimes so unbearable you just want to spend the day in an ice bucket.

So last year I discovered the wonders of air conditioning. Of course I always knew of its existence but I always held back when it comes to using it in my own home. This is when I was still living in the Vacaville area where it gets scotching HOT during the summer... having lived in Davis for several years in the past, I figure this is okay. I can power through, I have before... ice packs, ice waters, fans... its okay (miss frugal is at full control!)... then somewhere during a massive heat wave... I couldn't bare it any longer! The apartment I live in traps heat like winter is just around the corner! You'd think when the sun is gone and the summer breeze kicks in that at least you can try to go to sleep....nope! 95+ degrees (the thermostat only read up to 95 degrees!) inside the apartment! It was ridiculous, then I realize I was even more ridiculous because I was still in the mindset of a poor college student who couldn't afford to use the AC, "why am I suffering in the heat when I don't have to!?" I have a job, I can pay for a little bit of luxury!

Lets just say the air conditioner worked very hard that summer. This summer, however, may be a different story, since I'm currently living with my folks and they don't have an AC, it may get uncomfortable since I spoiled myself last year. Luckily the bay area is not as hot...though we do have a far amount of warm days....

Now that we've gotten the summer heat rant out of the way, lets talk about food and reunions! After what seems like forever, my HS school friends and I were finally able to meet up for a mini reunion before we all get dispersed again. Its funny we never cherished these types of moments as much when we were younger. Despite our resistance to grow up, adult life has certainly crept its way in. In almost 10 years since most of us first met, here we are all grown up and working professionals. Its a scary thought but together, we like to be the same kids we once were, sharing stories, laughing at the most silly nonsense, and enjoying a nice after dinner game night. I have to say, I rocked every game we played! A little applause, thank you. I usually finish mediocre so this feeds the ego quite well, its been starving.

Speaking of starving, the dish I made for our little pot luck/game night get together got excellent reviews, Sausage Parmesan Baked Pasta. The dish was inspired by my weekly Friday group lunches with the coworkers where we all chip in to buy ingredients and cook lunch together. That particular Friday, we had some yummy baked pasta. The concept was easy enough but like always I like to jazz things up. Get more for the food you eat.

The version we had at work was fairly simple, ground beef, pasta sauce, and some cheese to top. My version, I wanted veggies and loads of them! I added summer squashes, spinach, artichoke, and tomatoes and for the protein, I decided on some Italian turkey sausages and a few strips of bacon for that smoky flavor. It was divine. It was so good, I made it again for Father's Day weekend along with some tri-tip. My mom loved it! Yes! To another successful dish!



Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 sausages or ground turkey
  • 2-3 strips of bacon, chopped
  • ¼ cup of marinated artichoke, cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 cup cooking wine
  • Olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil flakes
  • Approx 14oz pasta of choice (Barilla rotini, whole wheat or veggie)
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce (Classico’s Creamy Spinach and Parmesan, 24 oz)
  • 1-2 shallots, diced
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash or zucchini, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp crème fraiche or heavy cream
  • 1 -2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Procedures:
    1. Cook pasta via package instructions, drain, and set aside.
    2. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet. Cook sausage and bacon over medium-high heat. Flavor as needed with pepper and Italian seasoning. Remove from heat when cooked and set aside.
    3. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan. Add shallots, squash, and tomatoes and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the tomatoes/squash are tender, season with oregano and basil. Stir in wine and artichoke and bring to a boil, reduce heat and continue for another 5 more minutes. Add in spinach and cook until done/~3 mins
    4. Add pasta sauce into the veggie mix, add in sausages and bacon and bring to a near boil, reduce heat, then coat the drained pasta. Remove from heat. Stir in crème fraiche.
    5. Transfer about ½ the pasta into a baking pan, layer with cheese, then add the other ½ of the pasta and add on a final top layer of cheese
    6. Finish in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
   

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