Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: Canned piquillo peppers can be found at Spanish markets or specialty stores.
2 pounds fresh spinach, tough stems removed
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound penne, shells or other hollow pasta
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter, plus more for pan
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup diced piquillo peppers (about 6), or other roasted red peppers
Pepper, to taste
1 pound grated top-quality fontina cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1. Wash the spinach well but do not dry. Place in a large pot, cover and cook over high heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander to cool, then squeeze out the excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.
2. Remove the sausage casings and crumble the meat into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until just done, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt, then the pasta and cook until just barely al dente, about 8 minutes.
5. While the pasta cooks, wipe the skillet and add the butter. Melt over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened but not browned. Add the spinach and nutmeg and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock and cream and bring to a boil.
6. Drain the pasta well and place in the bowl with the sausage. Pour in the spinach sauce. Add the peppers and toss until completely blended. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish and cover the bottom with 1/3 of the pasta mixture. Strew half the fontina cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining pasta and fontina cheese. Combine the Parmigiano and bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over top. Bake until the top is crusty and the sauce is bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes.