Casseroles are the traditional good ol’ fashioned American way of getting dinner on the table quickly on busy weeknights. The problem with a lot of casserole recipes that I’ve encountered is the reliance on canned soups and overly processed ingredients that are laden with chemicals and unhealthy add-ins. I hate reading through a recipe and getting excited about how great it sounds, only to run into canned chicken soup or vegetables or some other major turnoff further down in the ingredient list. This baked spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil breaks that trend using fresh tomatoes, vegetables and whole-wheat spaghetti.
Although this quick method may not be authentically Italian, it does go to show that being minimally processed doesn’t mean you have to give up mouthwatering flavor or spend hours over a hot stove concocting tomato sauce. With only so much time in the day, I embrace these little cheats in the kitchen and I think you should too.
What I love most about making baked spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil is the how quick and easily the red sauce comes together. Finishing in the oven lets the sauce continue cooking and developing the rich flavor that you would normally need to simmer for over an hour on the stovetop to achieve.
I know winter isn’t exactly prime-time for fresh tomatoes. With the exorbitant prices of organic and heirloom tomatoes these days (almost $6/ lb. at the grocery store!), you would think they would at least taste great, but more often than not, they’re hard, grainy and the texture is just a little off. Luckily I found some on sale last week and made plans to create a Caprese salad with my plump, juicy purchase… but then I got busy. Next thing I knew the tomatoes were looking pretty sub-par, certainly not acceptable as the showcase ingredient for Caprese. I had some leftover spaghetti noodles already so I got creative and threw them into this cheesey easy meal that’s not too heavy and overall a perfect weeknight meal that didn’t take too much effort or time in the kitchen.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1tsp. minced garlic
- 2 chicken sausages, casings removed
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated or finely chopped
- 5 tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 2 loosely packed cups of chopped kale, stems removed
- 8 oz. (half package) cooked spaghetti noodles
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sauté sausage and onion together over medium-high heat, breaking sausage into pieces as it cooks. Once sausage is mostly browned, add garlic and carrot and continue cooking a minute longer. Add chopped tomatoes, basil, and Italian seasoning and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until tomatoes break down into a sauce. Add kale, salt, and pepper and adjust seasonings to taste. Mix in spaghetti and half of parmesan. Add to casserole dish and sprinkle remaining parmesan on top. Bake in preheated oven 20 - 30 minutes, until cheese is melted.