A small batch of Italian sausage with your favorite pasta is tantalizing enough, but add fresh tomatoes and feta cheese, and you have a meal fit for a king. There are many types of feta cheese available that have unique and bold flavors. Feta cheese is made from sheep, goat and cow’s milk and varies in creaminess, tanginess and brininess. Next time you are at the deli counter, ask for samples to know the variations that can inspire mouth-watering dishes for meal planning.
The fresh ingredients in this recipe make a big difference. The basil and spinach add color, texture and earthy notes. A host of fresh herbs could be used as a substitute or in creating a combination.
Choosing pasta can be the most challenging decision. Farfalle (bowtie) pasta was a natural at our place, but anything from macaroni, conchiglie (shells), rigatoni to more robust forms like penne are great options.
Having so many options allows you to get creative and make one recipe several different ways. Experiment with your favorite cheese, herbs and pasta to create your signature dish.
Ingredients • 1, 8-oz. block of feta cheese • 1½ lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes • ¼ cup olive oil • ½ tsp salt • ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground • ½ tsp crushed red peppers • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped • 1 large handful of fresh baby spinach • parmesan cheese, shaved or grated for topping • black olives, sliced (optional) • 8 ozs. uncooked pasta of your choice (prepared al dente with instructions on package)
Italian-Spiced Venison Ingredients • 1½ lbs. ground venison • 1 tsp salt • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground • 1 tsp sage, ground • 1 tsp garlic powder • 1 tsp coriander, ground • 1 tsp sugar • 1 tsp cracked fennel seeds (fennel seeds crushed in mortar and pestle or spice grinder) • 1 cup very cold water
Meat Directions 1. Blend the spices and hand mix them into the meat with water until spices are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for one hour.
Cooking Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
2. Place the block of feta cheese in the center of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Evenly distribute the ground meat around the cheese to cover the bottom of the dish. Evenly place the tomatoes amongst the meat. Drizzle the olive oil over the mixture. Stir the meat and tomatoes lightly to cover the ingredients with the oil—season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.
3. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes have burst and are nice and juicy.
4. When the baking dish mixture has 15 minutes of cooking time left, cook the pasta al dente as instructed on the package—reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
5. Remove the baking dish from the oven and add the garlic and basil. Stir the mixture together, creating a creamy feta sauce with the melted cheese. Add in the cooked pasta and spinach and stir until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the reserved starchy pasta water ¼ cup at a time until the sauce is creamy and smooth.
6. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and olives and serve warm.