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Florentine Mac and Cheese and Roast Chicken Sausage Meatballs


  • Salt

  • 1 pound cavatappi corkscrew shaped hallow pasta

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken

  • Black pepper

  • 2-3 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

  • 1 egg

  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus more, if needed*

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,  (EVOO) divided

  • 2 boxes chopped frozen spinach (10 ounces each)

  • 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°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 EVOO and lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon EVOO. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and roast 17-18 minutes until juices run clear. Defrost spinach in microwave 8-10 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 5-6 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.