First, you'll need to brown the sausage. You will want to find Italian chicken sausage. Sweet, mild or hot. Whatever you like. I used mild. Also, you do not want to use the pre-cooked kind either. You want raw sausage. Of course, if you are vegetarian, you can omit this part. Once you pick a sausage you like (if you can't find chicken, use a lean turkey), remove the casing and brown it up in the pan until fully cooked. Then remove from pan and drain on paper towels to remove the excess grease. You don't want that in your pasta or in your tummy.
Next comes the sauce. Cook up some garlic and onions, but make sure not to burn it. If you burn it, you'll have to start all over. That would be awful. And you'd have to use a new pan. Have you ever tried to cook something in the same pan you just burnt garlic in? That's a no-no. Just trust me. Once the onion and garlic have cooked for a bit, add in the spinach (make sure to drain and squeeze out all that extra liquid!), tomato sauce and the sausage. You can use your own tomato sauce here or your favorite store bought. I love Trader Joes Low-Fat Marinara in the big can. It's the best. No really it is. Well, at least I think so.
Last but not least, the layering. Once the noodles are cooked, layer half of them in a large baking dish. Then, cover the noodles with a layer of sauce and then of all of the ricotta, mozzarella and parmi mixture. Repeat with noodles and more sauce. Finally, top it off with the rest of the mozzarella and parmi and you are ready to go! Easy, delicious and no one will ever know it's "skinny". The captain didn't even know. Well, he did after I told him. He even went back for seconds.
This dish is a real bang for your calorie buck - it's just about 400 calories for a 1 3/4 cup serving (so many noodles!) and it has over 25 grams of protein. Whoa! Totally filling and totally satisfying. Serve with a small side salad and you are good to go.
|I used mild chicken sausage from Whole Foods. It was SO good.|
|the sauce is coming together|
|I made this in two smaller dishes, but you can also do this in a large 9x13 size pan.|
|basil for decoration|
|dinner is served.|
non-stick spray (such as PAM)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
8 oz fat-free ricotta
8 oz part-skim mozzarella, shredded
14 oz uncooked Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing
12 oz high-fiber or low carb rigatoni pasta
1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves smashed garlic, roughly chopped
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid (I used a 12 oz bag here, but use what you have!)
salt and fresh pepper to taste
6 cups marinara (or your favorite jarred sauce)
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9- x13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 6 tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese.
Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, brown the sausage breaking up into small bits until cooked through; set aside. Add the oil to the skillet and sauté garlic about a minute, careful not to burn. Add spinach and season with a little salt and pepper and cook another minute. Return the sausage to the skillet and add the marinara sauce; cook on low about 2-3 minutes.
When the pasta water comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions for al dente, but undercook them by 4 minutes less. Drain and return to pot.
Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with half of the meat sauce. Spoon the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 6-7 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned.
Don't forget to save a little marinara on the side to pour over the top of your pasta for a little extra sauciness!