The Fiance and I saw Rachel Ray make Florentine Mac and Cheese and Roast Chicken Sausage Meatballs on her 30-minute meal show. Huh, we both said. Sounds pretty good -and, hey, it takes just 30 minutes!
The reality was something more akin to 70 minutes, and that was with both of us working on it and neither of us are dummies in the kitchen.
We're going to try the recipe again and when we do, we'll use one package of spinach rather than two. As it was the "sauce" was clumps of clumpy spinach. Tasty but nothing like a sauce.
About half the pasta - 8 ounces rather than 16 ounces - would probably suffice. To me, the dish seemed mostly pasta sprinkled here and there with clumps of spinach. I was expecting pasta in a sauce. Color me crazy.
Finally, and this is just a personal thing, I don't care much for meatballs. The texture is very close to meatloaf, which I don't like. These chicken sausage meatballs were good but I think I'd make more like 16 small ones rather than 8 large ones. But that's just me.
Florentine Mac and Cheese and Roast Chicken Sausage Meatballs
1 pound cavatappi corkscrew shaped hallow pasta (We used corkscrew pasta.)
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (We couldn't find ground chicken after looking at two grocery stores, so we used ground turkey.)
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus more, if needed*
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 boxes, 10 ounces, chopped frozen spinach
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, eyeball it
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt it and add the pasta to cook to al dente. Strain pasta reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
While the water is coming to a boil, in a large mixing bowl combine the chicken, salt and pepper, rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano - a rounded handful, egg and bread crumbs. *If the mixture seems too wet, add a handful of bread crumbs and mix together.
Form 8 large round balls, about 3 to 4-inches. Coat balls in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and roast 17 to 18 minutes until juices run clear.
Defrost spinach in microwave 8 to 10 minutes on "defrost" setting depending on the microwave. Place the boxes in a shallow dish to catch any run off.
While the meatballs roast, in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, melt butter, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and thicken 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup grated Parmigiano and reduce heat on lowest setting.
Wring spinach completely dry in clean kitchen towel then separate as you add it to the sauce. Also add the reserved 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Toss pasta with the spinach-white sauce and adjust seasonings.
Serve Florentine Mac-n-Cheese with 2 meatballs per person along side.