For some reason, I have a hard time getting bowtie pasta cooked perfectly. It’s either a little crunchy in the center, or too mushy on the outside. This time, I erred on the side of caution, and left the center a bit crunchy, knowing it would likely soften up as the pasta baked (correct). But does anyone know how I can perfect the art of cooking bowtie pasta? The original recipe seemed a bit bland (I’m noticing this as a common theme in the few Martha recipes I’ve tried recently), so I added some additional basil and red pepper flakes to enhance the taste. Use a gentle touch when breaking up the whole tomatoes. As I learned from experience, if you’re too forceful, you’ll end up with tomato seed and juices squirting out at you or all over your stovetop. As I read down the ingredient list, I knew I wouldn’t want to make/eat a salad with this dish. Sure enough, the gooey, cheesy pasta blend was too appealing, and I wanted seconds of it instead of having a salad. Thankfully, I added some spinach to the pasta bake, so I was able to sneak some additional nutritional value into it. Win! To add more nutritional value to this dish, next time I’ll consider adding diced onions and/or a chopped red pepper. Any other suggestions?
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
⅛ tsp sugar
3 oz. baby spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. When water boils, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook sausage on all four sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and slice into ¼-inch thick rounds. If sausage is not cooked through, return to skillet and cook, flipping until sausage is no longer pink. Set aside with cooked pasta.
3. Using the same saucepan, heat remaining 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until thickened. Add spinach, and continue cooking 3-4 minutes, allowing spinach to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stir pasta, sausage, and half the mozzarella into the sauce mixture. Transfer to a 2.5-quart baking dish; top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until top is lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes prior to serving, allowing additional liquid to be absorbed by the pasta.