While I know Italian food isn’t necessarily pasta, salads and bread, that’s what usually springs to mind when someone says “Italian”. This dish is truly “beautiful” in the sense that it has all those typical “Italian” foods conveniently located inside a single dish. You’ve got your pasta, your bread, and your salad (hey – tomatoes and basil counts).
While the recipe calls for Elbow Macaroni, any tubular pasta that isn’t too small will do –Bocconcini, Elicoidali, and of the Penne or Ziti variety – you get the idea. This easy does it recipe also calls for jarred spaghetti sauce. If you are anything like me, come summer you’ve got yourself a bumper crop of fresh tomatoes – more than you could ever possible eat, and you’ve cooked yourself up some awesome home-made pasta sauces that are killer. If that’s the case, skip the store-bought jarred stuff and go for the good stuff. (When I make my sauce, I don’t hassle with all that canning – mainly because I don’t have the equipment or the space. I let my sauce cool, then pour measured amounts in zip-lock freezer bags. These stack nicely on a shelf in the freezer right next to my bulk Italian sausage. Just grab and go).
For those of you who like left overs that go great in the microwave a word of caution – remove the bread, tomato and basil leaf first – let those warm on their own while you zap the rest. However; if your family is anything like my guys (especially Kiddo who takes after yours truly in that he’s a bread fend); chances are there will be some pasta left, minus the bread-tomato-basil topping.
This dish is a great alternative to Lasagna – just as filling and satisfying – with all those yummy ingredients. The only real differences are the past used, and no layering involved.
Beautiful Italian Macaroni Bake
1 lb Elbow Macaroni, cooked according to package
1 lb Bulk Italian Sausage
½ Cup Chopped Yellow or White Onion
½ Cup Chopped Red Onion
4-6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1 Package Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained
2 15-oz Containers Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Tablespoon Oregano
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Loaf Frozen Garlic Bread, thawed cut into 12 slices
2 Roma Tomatoes, cut into 12 sliced
12 Fresh Basil Leaves
Remove garlic bread and spinach from freezer and let thaw.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Cook Pasta according to package directions, about 10-15 minutes, drain and keep warm.
While water comes to a boil, chop onions and peel garlic. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 400-degrees
In a large skillet, cook sausage, onions and garlic over medium-high heat until sausage is browned, breaking into small pieces. Remove from heat; drain if necessary and stir in spaghetti sauce; set aside.
While sausage is cooking, combine ricotta cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning and black pepper; mix well. Set aside until ready to use.
Place cooked pasta in a large casserole or lasagna dish. Add half of the sauce to mixture, mix well.
Layer spinach over pasta, then spoon ricotta mixture evenly over spinach; spread evenly. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with half the Mozzarella and half the Parmesan cheese. Place bread slices on top of dish. Dip tomato slices in olive oil, place on top of bread slices. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses.
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is golden.
Remove from oven, place fresh basil on top of tomato slices and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.