Healthier Cavatini (Gluten-Free)
When my husband and I first started cooking together years ago, cavatini was his contribution to our limited supply of recipes. His parents had taught him the easy pasta dish to ensure he could feed himself at college. While completely successful at keeping a college student alive, it isn’t all that healthy, as its basically a homemade hamburger helper (delicious but lots of fatty meats, store bought sauces and plenty of hidden sugar).
When our diet changed, cavatini slipped off the dinner rotation but I’ve brought it back! I’ve kept the nostalgia and the easy dinner concept while increasing the veggies and eliminating the sugar and gluten. For those dairy intolerant, just remove the cheese and it will still be delicious. This is a great meal to make extra for an easy lunch.
1 pound ground meat (beef, bison, venison)
8.8 oz red lentil pasta
2 links of Andouille chicken sausage (Gilbert’s is my preference)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
4 oz chopped baby bella mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped sweet peppers (about 3 peppers)
1/2 cup packed spinach, chopped
1/4 cup mozzarella
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 TBS minced garlic
1/2 TBS Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Brown ground meat, drain fat, and set aside (it will cook again in the oven so some pink is ok)
Add 4 cups water and extra salt to a 2quart or larger pot over high heat. Cook lentil pasta according to package (cooking to the lowest time directed). (You can also cook this in a standard sauce pot if you plan to transfer pasta to a larger dish for baking)
Slice the chicken sausage and brown over high heat (these should already be fully cooked so this is an optional step)
Preheat oven to 350
If you haven’t already, chop the mushrooms, peppers, and spinach.
Mix the diced tomatoes, ground meat, half of the crispy chicken sausage, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, mushrooms, peppers, cheddar and spinach into the pasta dish (or baking dish).
After mixing all ingredients, smooth the top and then add the remaining chicken sausage in a single layer on top.
Top with mozzarella slices and cherry tomatoes
Cook for 15 minutes
Turn up heat to 375 and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the mozzarella is browning and bubbly.
Notes: You can make this a one-pot meal but it will take longer so I recommend using a large pot for pasta and baking (2qt or larger) and a skillet for browning the meat and crisping the chicken sausage.