Looking for Jimmy Dean sausage recipes? Don't miss this delicious and easy Italian sausage pasta casserole. It's the perfect make-ahead dinner for busy families.
Dinner is stressful enough during the normal parts of the year but during the holiday season, it becomes a downright pain in the neck.
My favorite strategy for ensuring I have enough time with my family while still getting food to the table is to cook double-batch casseroles I can have ready in a pinch.
We eat a portion of the dinner on the night I make it but then I freeze the second casserole for another stress-free dinner.
My mom has been making and serving this cheesy Italian sausage and spinach casserole for years. It is her go-to dinner to bring to friends and everyone raves over it.
The superstar of this casserole is the Jimmy Dean pork sausage found in the refrigerator section. It comes in several flavors, but for this bulk Italian sausage recipe I prefer the regular style since I can add Italian seasonings to match the final dish.
- Bulk Sausage: You can use any brand of bulk sausage you prefer. If it is Mild or Regular, add Italian Seasonings. If it is already seasoned, you can skip adding the extra seasoning.
- Pasta Shells
- Baby Spinach
- Minced garlic
- Chicken Stock
- Heavy cream
- Roasted red pepper flakes
While the sausage makes it decadent, the copious amounts of spinach give it a nutritional boost.
Our favorite side dish to go with it is freshly chopped up pineapple. Those flavors complement it perfectly and keep things nice and easy.
Brown the Sausage
First, brown up the bulk sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
As the sausage cooks, add the seasonings, diced onion and minced garlic.
Continue to brown the sausage until it develops a nice toasted brown color. If you undercook the sausage it will be rubbery and chewy in the casserole. The toasted edges mean it has gotten nice and crispy.
Add the Spinach
Add some chicken stock to the pan so that the liquid can help steam the spinach.
It will look like a ridiculous amount of spinach to start but it will cook down into the sausage and wilt fairly quickly.
Once the spinach has wilted, add a touch of cream for richness. Toss together with the pasta and you're all set!
Add the Pasta
My mom and I love to split this into the two small casserole pans. That way we have dinner tonight and another pan for later.
If you're feeding a hungry crowd, you'll want to put the whole recipe into one 9 x 13-inch pan.
Sprinkle on some fresh parmesan cheese before you bake it or wrap it in aluminum foil for the freezer.
Bake the Casserole
If it is heading straight to the oven, you still want to cover it with the foil before baking. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes so the cheese has a chance to turn golden brown.
While it's baking, chop up your fresh pineapple for the side. So easy!
I always feel like I've hit the jackpot when we have a busy night and I've got one of these dishes waiting for me in the freezer.
I can spend more time with the kids helping with homework or working on a holiday craft knowing that dinner is handled with almost no cleanup.
Make Ahead and Freezing Tips
If you are going to freeze this Italian sausage pasta casserole, mom suggests freezing it BEFORE baking but said to be sure to really let it thaw well in your fridge overnight before you bake it.
If the casserole is still really cold in the middle, you'll need to add additional baking time. Keep it covered with foil until the last 20 minutes or so to prevent it from over browning.
Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole
- 1 lb Jimmy Dean bulk sausage or any bulk sausage brand you love
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian herb blend
- freshly ground pepper
- heavy sprinkle of roasted red pepper flakes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ⅓ cup cream
- 2 bags or one large plastic tub of washed baby spinach
- 1 (16 oz) box of pasta shells
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta for 5-6 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.
- Brown and crumble the sausage in a large skillet. Be sure it is golden brown or it will be rubbery when you bake it. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and seasonings and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Pour in the chicken stock, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Add the fresh spinach on top of the sausage and cover the pan with a lid. When the spinach has wilted, gently stir to combine. Pour in the heavy cream.
- Gently toss the pasta together with the sausage mixture and then evenly divide into 2 8x8 freezer friendly dishes or 1 9x13 baking dish.
- Sprinkle top with fresh parmesan cheese.
- Cover in tin foil and freeze. To bake, thaw overnight in fridge and then bake as directed.
IF BAKING IMMEDIATELY:
- Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes. Remove the tin foil cover and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
- Serve with fresh pineapple. It is practically essential to the taste of the dish.
Variations:You could also use a Hot/Spicy bulk sausage or a Sweet Italian sausage in this recipe.
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