8 ounces sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 lb. gemelli or cavatappi, cooked and drained
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened
4 ounces crusty Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 oz.)
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
2 ounces shredded Asiago, Parmesan, or Romano cheese (1/2 cup)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Remove casings, if present, from sausage. In a skillet cook and crumble sausage; drain. In a very large bowl combine sausage, cooked pasta, cream cheese, bread cubes, olives, and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, thyme and salt. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Pour sauce over pasta mixture. Stir gently.
3. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover; top with Asiago cheese. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes more or until heated through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.
I know, this sounds like fat city! But there are so many ways you can lighten up this recipe. Start out by using turkey sausage. Use light cream cheese. I wouldn't try using fat free. But light works nicely. Use skim milk. I've made it both ways... full fat and lightened up and it's delicious both ways. I bet if you try this, it will become one of your go to meals too.