Secret Creamy Fall Pasta Bake (GF option too)
Want an EXTRA creamy pasta without actual cream? Try adding my secret ingredient…pumpkin!!! Pumpkin not only makes this baked pasta dish creamy, it also has so many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A. Do not be afraid my friends, the pumpkin flavor is very is very low for those that are not very adventurous eaters. I have proof of this theory…my mom isn’t a big “sweet pasta sauce” fan and she loved it! The cheese helps bring the savory flavors into this dish.
Other great aspects of this dish is that it uses protein packed chickpea pasta, the whole dish can be made gluten free AND there it contains nutrient rich spinach. I hope you enjoy this healthier creamy pasta for your chilly fall nights with friends and family.
2 Small Vidalia Onions -small chopped (around 2 cups)
2 tbsp Light Olive Oil
2 - 8 oz boxes of Banza Brand Chickpea Cavatappi Pasta (can use regular cavatappi)
1/2 cup of Pasta Water
1 lb Ground Sausage
2 tbsp Butter - divided
1 tbsp Flour (or Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Flout)
1 cup Reduced Fat Milk
1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 - 15oz can 100% Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
1/3 cup Ground Pecorino Cheese
1 - 12 oz bag Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Black Pepper
1 - 5oz bag of Spinach
1/3 cup Panko Breadcrumb (or Gluten Free Panko)
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat 2 tbsp light oil over medium high heat in a deep dish saucepan. Add onions and cook 2-3 min or until translucent.
3. Add the ground sausage to the pan. Cook the sausage, constantly breaking up the meat into small pieces and stirring it into the mixture, around 4-5 min. Pour the mixture into a bowl reserve on the side and reserve the pan.
4. While cooking the sausage, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 4-5 minutes or until under al’dente (it will cook in the oven). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta and reserve on the side.
5. Using the same pan that the sausage was cooked in, over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp butter, melt, add 1 tbsp flour and cook for 2 min, stirring occasionally.
6. Using a whisk, add milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
7. Add the can of pumpkin, stir into the sauce and cook on medium heat for 2 min.
8. Turn off the heat and stir in the Greek yogurt, pecorino cheese, 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Wilt the spinach into the sauce.
9. Add the reserved pasta to an oil sprayed large casserole dish (I used a throw-away aluminum casserole dish). Then, add the sausage, the sauce and 1/2 cup pasta water, stir until fully incorporated.
10. In a small bowl, melt 1 tbsp butter and add 1/3 cup panko and rest of cheddar cheese, mix until uniform.
11. Evenly place the topping over the pasta cook in the oven for 15 minutes uncovered. Then, broil for 2-3 min or until the top is browned. Serve immediately!