Baked Ziti with Creme Fraiche & Spinach


serves 6 to 8

recipe slightly adapted from the Back Pocket Pasta Cookbook

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 28 oz can plus 1 14-oz. can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 lb. ziti
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, creme fraiche, egg and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season to taste and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes, short of al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Place spinach in a medium bowl and pour over pasta water to wilt spinach. Drain and set aside once wilted.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir half of the sauce into the ricotta mixture. Add the pasta and spinach and toss together to coat. Pour the pasta into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan over the top and bake until the cheese starts bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until the cheese and pasta are browned in spots, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.