Baked Penne with Sausages and Spinach

, from Issue #29. September, 2015
Photography by Vanessa Wu.
Baked Penne with Sausages and Spinach

Serves: 6


200 grams short, dried pasta such as penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
500 grams pork sausages
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cups tomato passata
1 bag baby spinach

To cook
200 grams crème fraîche
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Put the pasta in a bowl and toss with a little olive oil to prevent it sticking together.

Remove the skin from the sausages and break into walnut-sized pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook the pieces of sausage meat until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion, garlic and oregano to the pan, season and cook until soft. Add the sausage meat back to the pan.

Pour over the tomato passata and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in half the reserved cooking water and start adding the spinach, a handful at a time. Turn the spinach to wilt in the heat of the sauce before adding the next handful. Add the remaining cooking water and season. Tip the sauce over the pasta and combine well.

To cook: Divide the pasta between individual ovenproof dishes or place in a large baking dish. Combine the crème fraîche, half the Parmesan and garlic, season and spoon over the pasta. Scatter
over the remaining Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes or until hot and the top is golden.

Tomato passata: (‘passata di pomodoro’) is simply tomatoes that have been puréed and sieved to remove the seeds. It is imported from Italy and can be found easily in some supermarkets and most specialty stores.

To cook pasta (fresh or dried) successfully: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Generously salt the water just before you add the pasta – this increases the water temperature slightly. Stir the pasta and allow the water to come back to the boil. Stir again – there is no need to add oil to the water. The water should be kept at a rolling boil throughout the cooking.

Taste for doneness – there should be a slight firmness to the bite (‘al dente’). Fresh pasta may take only 2-3 minutes. Dried can take up to 12 minutes. Drain immediately and toss with the sauce. A little of the cooking water can be used to lighten the sauce, which  should cling to the pasta (not pool in the bottom of the bowl). Heat the serving bowl beforehand as pasta cools quickly.