Stacie is a friend of my husband’s from elementary school days with whom we reconnected when I started The Fountain Avenue Kitchen. She had stumbled across my blog and took the time to send me a message, thinking I may be married to her former classmate.
This led to my husband digging out old class photos and several more emails. These walks down memory lane are always such fun. Small world that it is, I started bumping into Stacie at yoga and, as luck may have it, my kids’ swim team swam against her kids’ team this summer!
Last summer, Stacie kindly sent me the following recipe which is a family favorite in her house. She makes this often when zucchini and tomatoes are abundant, and there are never any leftovers. I have since prepared this recipe for my extended family several times, always to smiling faces. Everything needed for a well-rounded meal is in this dish: meat, veggies, pasta, and a delicious, easy-to-prepare white sauce. It truly needs nothing else. If you’d prefer a little something extra on your plate, a crusty roll, your favorite green vegetable or salad would be ideal.
For a gluten-free option, I use a quinoa-corn pasta, and follow the white sauce method used in this recipe. Even the gluten eaters can’t tell the difference!
- 1 pound sausage, casings removed (I used half sweet and half hot turkey sausage; use your favorite)
- 2 cups diced zucchini
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 2 cups (about 5 ounces) small tubular pasta (I used radiatori; Stacie uses mafalde, a short rectaguler pasta), cooked on the lower time frame specified on package directions
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%; could use non-fat or whole)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour (see comments above for gluten-free details)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill
- 1 cup shredded cheese, divided use (Stacie uses mozzarella; I used cheddar)
- Olive oil for skillet
- Optional garnish: chopped fresh basil or parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large skillet coated with olive oil, sauté the onion over medium heat until it softens, 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes more. Remove to a large bowl.
In the same skillet, brown the sausage, crumbling as you go. Remove to the bowl with the zucchini and onions.
To keep things easy, I make the white sauce in the same skillet: Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in milk, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add the salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of the cheese, stirring until just melted. Remove from the heat.
Combine the cheese sauce with the sausage, zucchini mixture, tomatoes, and cooked pasta. Transfer the mixture to a lightly-greased, 2-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is hot throughout and the cheese is melted.
Garnish with fresh basil or parsley, if desired, and serve hot.