Greetings to 2021 in Mary's Tavern!
Let's imagine for a moment it's 1221 in Scotland, aye? Steaming trenchers of cabbage, onions with mushrooms and wild garlic, slices of venison, or salmon with rosemary. You might find chopped apples and hazelnuts mixed with honey, as well. Of course, this casserole would not be on the menu for serving in the great hall. Nae...
Comfort food became a staple in the Morgan house during December, which I'm continuing into the long, dark months of winter. With one exception. I'm swapping out the richer bases with healthier options. January always sparks a "back-to-the-norm" habit of eating for me and my knight. No grumbling from him this new year either.
Instead of heavy cream, I'm using evaporated milk, pumpkin, and pasta water for the base of the casserole. It's truly creamy, nutritious, and delicious. I'm not using low-fat cheese, but feel free to do so. As always, tweak the ingredients to suit your own preferred tastes.
Rigatoni with Sausage, Pumpkin, and Spinach
1-pound Italian Sausage (mild or hot)
1 can (15 oz) canned Pumpkin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 can (12 oz) Evaporated Milk
3 cups baby spinach
1 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 4-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Reserve ½ cup pasta liquid. Drain pasta, return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, place Italian sausage in skillet over medium heat and cook until browned. Remove to plate and set aside.
Combine pumpkin, flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) in the skillet over medium heat. Slowly add evaporated milk and stir until smooth. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
Pour over pasta. Add sausage and reserved pasta water. Stir well.
Spread half of the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with baby spinach. Cover with remaining pasta mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
Combine Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl. Remove foil from casserole and sprinkle cheeses over the pasta. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.