For a dish with so few ingredients, these Spaghetti and Sausage Nests were one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time.
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The directions called for baking the pasta nests in 4-5 ramekins but I opted to bake them in two mini cast iron skillets. I don’t know what it is about these little skillets that are so appealing. I’ve used them for chili cheese fries, cookies, brownies and cobblers and the novelty never wears off. Those two single serve skillets could have easily fed four.
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This dish was even better after it had sat at room temperature for a couple of hours. In the past, I’ve used a different pasta sauce and was pleasantly surprised to find that Barilla pasta sauce has more of an Italian flavor without the tangy aftertaste. My only suggestion would be to boil the pasta first so that it’s ready once the Italian sausage is cooked and drained. My only change to the recipe was to cook the pasta longer because we like ours a little past the al dente stage.
In addition to it tasting so darn good, it came together easily. After your mini skillet (or ramekins) are prepared for non-stick baking the process is simple. Layer the pasta in the bottom of the dish and make a nest. Spoon Italian Sausage on spaghetti nest and then cover it with pasta sauce. Next, cover the whole thing with shredded Mozzarella cheese and bake until hot and bubbly. It doesn’t get much easier than this folks.
I was lucky enough to find a few mini cast iron skillets at the thrift store but they needed a little extra TLC. Over time and sometimes from neglect you may have to refurbish your cast iron skillets. Here are a few tips from Lodge one of the old makers of cast iron cookware.
- Because you’re re-seasoning your cookware you can wash it with hot soapy water and a stiff brush, then rinse and dry it completely. Emphasis on dry it completely so that it doesn’t rust.
- Evenly and lightly apply a very thin coat of melted shortening or cooking oil. If you use too much the surface will have a sticky finish. Been there done that and it was a hot mess!
- Line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil and set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F. Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven and bake for at least one hour. After an hour turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
- Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.
I’ve heard of people placing their cast iron skillets into a fire and letting them get red hot to clean them. Or, some plunge them in cold water to get them cool enough to handle so they can be cleaned. No just no! Unless you want your precious cookware to warp and possibly crack. Patience is a virtue. One more thing, try to avoid the foaming oven cleaners to remove burnt on food. The best practice is to pay attention to what you’re cooking so it doesn’t burn. These spaghetti and sausage nests are a definite keeper. The Mr also suggested that I get at least 10 more mini skillets so everyone can have their own when all the kids are home. Alrighty then, I guess he really liked this one!
- 1 (16 ounce) box Barilla® Spaghetti Pasta
- 1 (24 ounce) jar Barilla® Traditional Sauce
- 1 (12 ounce) package mild Italian sausage, casings removed**
- Sweet Italian Sausage Links
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or more as needed
- Preheat oven to 350° and spray the inside of 8 (4- or 5-inch) ramekins or mini skillets with cooking spray.
- Next, heat sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Place sausage in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.**Ground Sweet Italian Sausage would also work.
- Cook and stir, breaking up sausage into small pieces until it’s browned and loses its pink color.
- Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until tender yet firm to the bite, about 12 minutes, then drain.
- Line the bottom of prepared baking dishes with a nest of cooked spaghetti.
- Divide cooked sausage among the baking dishes on top of pasta.
- Top with about ⅓ cup sauce, making sure sausage is covered.
- Sprinkle enough mozzarella on top to cover.
- Bake in preheated oven until cheese is bubbling about 20 minutes.
- Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.
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