I am the queen of procrastination. When it comes to mindless tasks I can come up with a million excuses to put off something until tomorrow or next week. I end up in various predicaments as a result and rarely learn my lesson. For instance, I will someday run out of gas and end up stranded on the side of the road. I come dangerously close on a frequent basis: needle at or below red, turn off the AC/heat to conserve energy, avoid breaking at all costs close.
Last Thursday was a busy night. We’ve started renting out our place on airbnb when we leave town, but that means the night before departure is a frentic rush to scrub the kitchen, banish every last stray hair from the bathroom floor, and store away the clutter. I stole thirty minutes earlier in the week to prep this pasta. Half went straight into the the freezer for the week after traveling and the other half into the fridge. Thursday came and I popped this in the oven then started scrubbing down the stove, sink and countertops. Thirty minutes later I had spotless kitchen and a healthy dinner to power us through the rest of clean up.
Many baked pasta dishes can be heavy but this is not. Sure, its topped by a layer of cheese but I kept it thin to ensure lots of crispy corners and bits (my favorite) and it’s loaded with peppers strips, zucchini, and shredded broccoli rabe (rapini). Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand, mushrooms would be great here and any green could be substituted.
- 1 lb short, hollow style pasta (ziti, rigatoni, etc.)
- a couple glugs of olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 lb Italian sausage (I used Spicy Italian Chicken sausage from Trader Joe's), removed from casing
- 1 large or two medium sized zucchini, cut into half moons
- 2 red peppers, cut into strips
- 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini) or spinach/kale/chard, sliced into ribbons
- ½ cup (2 oz) grated parmesan
- ¾ lb shredded mozzarela
- If baking right away preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Cook pasta for 3-4 minutes less than directed by package. Pasta should be less than al dente and have a white vein in the middle that lends a slight crunch. This ensures the pasta doesn't turn to mush in the oven.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3-5 minutes until softened, then add garlic for 30 seconds. Add sausage and break up with a fork or wooden spoon into bite size pieces. Cook until sausage is browned on all side. Add zucchini and peppers and cook until beginning to soften 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Let simmer 10-20 minutes until the flavors have melded. Stir in parmesan and broccoli rabe and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.
- Combine sauce with noodles either in the pan or in your baking dish and stir until incorporated. I used two baking dishes, each about 2 quart dishes that were not completely filled but I think this could be packed into a single 9x13 (3 quart) dish.
- Layer shredded cheese on top and bake 20-30 minutes until bubbling and cheese is melted. Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to crisp if desired.