One of the things I think a lot of moms struggle with (I know I surely can’t be alone in this!!) is planning quick, somewhat healthy meals that are filling and, did I mention – QUICK? The season we are in right now, it’s better for Cody and I to eat dinner after the kids go to bed on weeknights. So that often results in us eating easy food for dinner. Pop open a can of soup or make sandwiches, or heat up some ramen… or bake a pizza. I’ve really been trying to step out of that box and cook more in the evenings. I’m also trying out several new recipes in the crock pot to help make the evening prep quicker.
This pasta dish has evolved over time. Originally inspired by a covered dish that a friend brought to us after Grayson was born, and then modifications inspired by something I saw on an episode of Chopped (I love Food Network when I actually get a few minutes to myself to watch mom tv!)… it has become one of our favorite, quick go-to meals. And I love how flexible it is – I can use any pasta I have leftover in the pantry, or buy something new. At first I made this only with penne, but now I think I’ve made it with pretty much everything except spaghetti, and ya know, I bet it’d be fabulous on fettuccine or spaghetti, too!
Here’s what you need to make it:
Your favorite kind of pasta (picture with potato gnocchi)
1 jar Vodka Creme Sauce (I buy the Bertolli brand – not sure where to find it? Here’s their website: http://www.villabertolli.com)
Smoked Sausage links (I buy whatever’s on sale – either Hillshire Farm or Ekrich – we prefer the beef skinless)
1 pkg Cherry Tomatoes
Bag of Spinach
Salt/Oregano/Garlic to taste
Slice your smoked sausage, and sauté with a small amount of olive oil in a large 12″ skillet. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half – you can use more or less tomatoes to meet your personal tastes – I usually use quite a few. Toss them in the skillet with the sausage. Reduce the heat to low (I have settings 1-10 on my cooktop and I always turn down to 3). Chop your spinach (rough chop) and fold it in to the sausage/tomato mix. Stir together well. Add your salt/garlic/oregano to taste as you prefer.
Meanwhile, you will have cooked your pasta – here’s where you need to know your pasta. Gnocchi (as pictured) takes 2 minutes in boiling water, so I certainly don’t start it at the beginning. But if you are using a hard pasta like penne or farfalle, you’ll need to start it boiling earlier. The trick here is to cook it to an almost still hard al dente.
Add your jar of sauce to the sausage/tomato/spinach skillet, and add your pasta. Turn it all the way down to a low simmer, and stir well. Use about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to pour into the sauce jar. Shake it well and pour into the skillet. Stir well, cover, and let sit until you are ready to serve. Test your pasta to make sure it’s tender when ready. If not, you can bring the heat up to get it the rest of the way done in the pasta.
The thing I love about this meal is that not only is a warm bowl of comfort food, it’s QUICK to prepare. The whole process start to finish typically takes me about 20 minutes (or less when I do gnocchi b/c it cooks )! And… well, it’s got some great veg in it, as well as some fabulous protein! Flavor is a 10, for sure. It’s become a every three weeks kinda meal… that becomes something new just by changing up the type of pasta! Enjoy!