This is a one of my favorite baked pasta dishes. The original recipe came from my Aunt Fran. She made it with ground beef and peas, sometimes substituting cauliflower for the peas. I like the combination of sweet Italian sausage with cauliflower. It works well for this particular dish. My children love it too. Be sure to use a good quality sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds.
Baked Macaroni with Cauliflower and Sausage
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lg. head of cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-size
2 c. prepared tomato sauce – preferably homemade
1 c. water
1-1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1-1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 lb. elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a 6-quart stockpot with water, add a bit of salt and bring to a boil to cook the cauliflower in. While the water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, crumble sausage into small pieces and add to the oil. Cover and cook the sausage for 15 minutes until the sausage is well browned. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes until garlic is soft but not brown. When the water boils add cauliflower and boil for 3-4 minutes until just barely tender. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and add to the sausage mixture. Add tomato sauce, water and 1 tsp. oregano to the cauliflower. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Save the cauliflower water and bring back to a boil. Cook the elbow macaroni in the cauliflower water until barely al dente. Drain and pour macaroni into a large bowl. Add the sausage and cauliflower mixture to the pasta. Stir to combine. Add mozzarella cheese and 1/4 c. Parmesan. Mix well and pour into a 9×13 pan. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. oregano. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted. Serves 6.