Of course you already know that I am a pasta fanatic. And in all honesty, this casserole is one of the reasons why I can’t seem to stay away from any type of dish that consists of a sauce and various other accoutrements that surround shaped and boiled semolina flour and water. This casserole has everything I find necessary to fulfill my “must have pasta” need. It has meat, veggies, cheese, and a killer cream sauce. When combined, it is just a fantastic amalgamation of flavors. And it’s pretty too!
So next time you’re in the mood for pasta, and especially when you have a small army to feed, make this dish. Now, I’m not going to tell you that it‘s a quick dish to prepare. Because it does take some dedicated kitchen time. But I will say that it’s an easy recipe to follow, and not too expensive compared to a lot of lasagna type recipes that call for vast amounts of expensive cheese. Plus it’s a lovely change from a tomato sauce based pasta dish. And, this pasta can be made well ahead and kept in your refrigerator until needed.
So everything considered, it’s a great dish to have in your special treat and company repertoire.
So give it a try. What’s to lose? Well for sure it’s not weight! Because this definitely is not a low calorie casserole. But then, I’ve never enjoyed a low calorie casserole in my life, so what would I know about how to create one? Never mind – just enjoy!
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. fresh button mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ tsp. oregano
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. minced fresh parsley
- 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped
- ½ c. unsalted butter
- 6 T. flour
- 2 c. milk
- ¼ c. dry white wine
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp. beef base
- 1½ c. dry penne pasta, cooked al dente
- 2 c. grated Mozzarella cheese
Heat olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned. Add onion and mushrooms. Fry until the onion starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, parsley, and spinach. Remove pan from heat. In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Let cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually add the milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in the white wine, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, and beef base. Add to the sausage mixture, along with the cooked pasta. Adjust seasoning. Scoop into a lightly greased 9×13-inch pan or casserole dish. Top with Mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese topping has melted and started to brown. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily. It can also be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until about 2 hours before you need to pop it in the oven. Letting the casserole come to room temperature before heating allows all the ingredients to warm more evenly.