Baked Pasta With Spicy Chicken Sausage

So I have started to embrace adding a little meat back into my diet, which my boyfriend seems quite happy about, so I decided to make him dinner this past week and tap into my old Italian cooking styles. I have already talked about pasta Sundays when I was little with my family, but the other thing, that mainly my dad loved having, was sausage and peppers. I myself am a fan of chicken sausage. Besides it being a little lighter and leaner, I think it packs a really great taste, especially when you really utilizes the spices that it has already been flavored with. For this dish, I used a spicy Italian chicken sausage. Because of this, I seasoned my pasta side and veggies with chili powder, read pepper flakes, and black pepper to really up the spicy kick. Here is the recipe for a combo of 2 of my favorite childhood dishes: baked cheesy pasta and sausage and peppers. Remember, Italian dishes can sometimes get a bad wrap for being calorie heavy, so making a few alterations such as using low-fat cheese, smaller portions of cheese, adding veggies to your dish, or using leaner cuts of meat (like chicken!) can help lighten up some of your Italian favorites!

Baked Pasta With Spicy Chicken Sausage

Ingredients:
– 2 cups whole wheat pasta
– 3 links spicy Italian lean chicken sausage
– 1/4 cup chopped onions
– 1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
– 1 – 1 1/2 cups mushroom marinara sauce (I purchased mine from Kroger, it is the Simply Balanced brand; you can use whatever sauce is your favorite!)
– 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese ( half goes into pasta mixture, save half for top)
– spices: chili powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder
– 1 Tbsp canola oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Boil your pasta as directed, but undercook about 1-2 minutes. Finely chop your onions and peppers. SautΓ© in a little canola oil, seasoning with garlic powder, chili powder, and black pepper. You want your veggies to be fairly soft (should take 5-7minutes). Once your veggies have softened, chop your sausage into about 1/2 in pieces and add to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add in your pasta sauce. Cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the lid and allow sauce to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add in your cooked pasta and stir, lowering your heat to a low flame. Add in a little crushed red pepper and another pinch of black pepper. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese into your pasta and sausage mixture, and stir to incorporate.

Grease a small baking dish with a little cooking spray, and add your pasta mixture, spreading out evenly. Top your pasta with the last bit of mozzarella cheese, and cover with tin foil. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. This makes about 4 servings. Enjoy!

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