I admit, this is pretty much exactly what it looks like: a
hot mess casserole. The recipe even came out of Faith Durand’s “Not Your Mother’s Casseroles.” But it’s a light casserole, as far as these things go, and the flavors are a little more sophisticated than what you’d expect, with caramelized onions and just enough cheese to hold the whole thing together. To further convince myself this was actually wholesome, I served it with a side salad of assorted mesclun. (And by “mesclun” I mean “the miniature leaves of the only harvestable things in the garden right now,” which would be oak-leaf lettuce, bok choy, and Japanese purple mustard. By way of postscript, for the love of god, don’t put the latter two in a salad. Ever.)
As below, it makes 6 servings, especially if served with salad.
• 1 lb. smoked sausage, thinly sliced; any kind is fine (Grocery Outlet is consistently the cheapest place to buy this): $3.25
• 1 lb. pasta (short, chunky shapes work best for this; I used radiatori): $1.19
• 4 cups baby spinach (about 1/2 a bag), chopped: $1
• 2 cups mozzarella, grated: $2
• 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated: $1.30
• 3 onions, thinly sliced pole to pole: 50 cents
• 4 garlic cloves, minced: 4 cents
• 10-12 sage leaves, chopped (garden): $0
• 2 T butter: 12 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
• Optional side salad (garden): $0
• Oil and vinegar for the optional side salad: 10 cents
TOTAL: $9.52/6 = $1.59/serving
Set a pot of heavily salted water on to boil. Melt the butter in a large skillet or sauté pan, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-low heat until browned and caramelized, about 30 minutes (or more, depending on how long it takes your water to boil and your pasta to cook).
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cook the pasta just until al dente. Drain, return to the pot, and stir in the caramelized onions, sausage, spinach, garlic, sage, 1 tsp each salt and pepper, and mozzarella. Spread in the greased baking dish.
Top with the Parmesan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned.