Tomato and Spinach Pasta Toss

I like to take shortcuts when it comes to preparing a recipe.

My shortcuts usually save me time, money and a trip to my therapist’s office for the anxiety I usually get when it comes to cooking.

Honestly, I’m too hard on myself.

But when it comes to preparing healthful meals on a college budget that don’t have the names Ramen, peanut butter or rice in the recipe name, it can sometimes be a challenge.

Case in point: I’ve almost used up an entire jar of peanut butter. I bought it three weeks ago. 

I am so ashamed.

Any who, this recipe only has five ingredients. Or if you watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey, ‘ingredienteses.’

Try saying that five times fast.

The original recipe calls for Italian sausage. This was my first shortcut. While I love sausage, I knew I wasn’t going to spend $4.00 on a  pound of it for this recipe only. Therefore, I decided to use ground beef and used  1/2 pound for this recipe and the rest for another dish later in the week. The ground beef I used was also leaner and cheaper than the sausage. To compensate for the flavor, I used a variety of spices for the beef, including red pepper flakes, garlic and   onion powders, and an italian seasoning blend.  Use as little or as much as you like.

Next, the recipe calls for baby spinach leaves. Yeah, that ain’t cheap either. Instead, I used frozen spinach – same taste, better price. The only caveat is boiling the frozen spinach before adding it to the sauce. 

Everytime I’ve made this dish it comes out great.  I usually use whole-wheat penne pasta and the dish tastes good hot or straight out of the fridge. Next time I make this, I may layer the pasta and spinach toss in a baking dish, add a layer of ricotta cheese, top it with mozzarella cheese and bake it.

Now I’m getting crazy.  

And I do love my casseroles. 

Tomato and Spinach Pasta Toss

Original recipe from KRAFT, 6 servings

2 cups of rotini pasta, uncooked

1/2 pound italian sausage (or lean ground beef)

1 pkg. (6oz) baby spinach leaves (or use half a package of frozen spinach)

1 can (14 1/2 ounce) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained (I suggest using 2 cans  or  a cup of your favorite spaghetti sauce)

1 cup KRAFT Shredded Italian Five Cheese with a Touch of PHILADELPHIA

Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, omitting salt.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in deep large skillet on medium-high heat 10 to 12 min. or until done, stirring occasionally. Drain; return sausage to skillet. Add spinach and tomatoes; cook 2 min. or until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally.

Drain pasta; return to pan. Add sausage mixture and cheeses; mix lightly.

 

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