Italian Sausage and Rigatoni with Fresh Spinach

Yesterday I was at Target with my boys and we were, of course, in the toy section. Just when I was pretty sure we had every possible Lightning McQueen toy ever made, those marketing geniuses at Disney come up with another movie with all new cars that my boys simply must have. Somewhere near me, a woman was trying to convince her son that he really did want Toy Story Yahtzee. Guess what? He didn't. It didn't matter that it was a dressed up version with Buzz and Woody, this boy was having none of it. She tried valiantly to talk him into it but no, he was not interested. She bought it anyway and all I could think was, "Good luck getting that kid to play that."

It was shockingly similar to my kids when it comes to many (okay most) meals. No matter how we try to dress it up and make it sound fun, kids have certain ideas when it comes to what is acceptable and what is not.

So I'd like to tell you that my kids gobble up this pasta dish with fresh spinach but alas they do not. My almost 5 year old will not eat anything that is on a plate with anything objectionable and most of this dish is quite objectionable to his oh-so-refined palate. He eats the sausage on a very good day with the promise of a very good treat (yes, I KNOW you're not supposed to do that but I do). My littlest one will eat about 3 spinach leaves to every 30 noodles but hey, that's something. This is an easy and quick dish to make and normal full-sized people love it. I've decided to focus on cooking for normal full-sized people in the hopes that my little ones will grow into that.

Italian Sausage & Rigatoni with Fresh Spinach
Recipe by Michelle's Dinner Bell

1 lb Italian sausage - you can use turkey, hot, mild, sweet, whatever you like
1/2 lb rigatoni pasta
10 oz fresh baby spinach
1 red pepper
1 sweet onion
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1 lemon
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Begin with browning your sausage. Now depending on how much of a hurry you are in and how loud your children and/or husband are howling that they are starving TO DEATH, I like to simmer my sausages after they brown as it seems to remove more fat (this could be an illusion as I have no scientific proof to back this up) and make them more tender. Just add about a cup of liquid (broth, beer or water) to you pan, bring to boil and cover the sausages for about 30 minutes. Slice the pepper and onion.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil while browning sausage. Cook pasta about 8-9 minutes for al dente. Set a timer. Seriously. You'll get caught up in the browning, poaching and slicing and overcook your pasta and then well it was all a waste, wasn't it. So always set a timer.

Remove sausages and slice into rounds. Drain fat from pan and toss your pepper and onion strips back into the pan with the sausage.

Drain your pasta and add to the pot with sausage and veggies. Toss with dressing and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

You can mix your spinach in at this point to wilt it, but I prefer to place spinach on each plate and then top that with the pasta and sausage. This way, you don't get the over-wilted spinach when you reheat this if you have any leftovers. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Did someone say leftovers? Look what you can do with the sausage mixture in the morning! Just remove noodles (or not, I just think my husband would have a heart attack if I scrambled noodles into his eggs) and heat it in a skillet. Once heated through, toss in 2-3 beaten eggs and stir until eggs are mostly cooked. Throw in a handful or two of spinach and finish cooking.


  1. That looks great, Michelle! I love your ideas! Can't wait to see you soon!

  2. Thanks Jen! We should do dinner together. I'll cook and you can relax.