Good Old Fashioned Casserole: Penne with Chicken Sausage and Cheese

I don’t make pasta enough and I have decided it is because I find boiling pasta a pain.  Someone needs to invent something like a rice-cooker for pasta.  No boiling water (takes forever on my lame stove), no yelling at the kids to stay out of the kitchen as you drain the pasta and fewer dishes dirtied.  I hope someone out there is working on this.

The casserole below took a little bit of time to make but it was worth it.  It is probably because I don’t have Italian food down the way I have Asian food down.  It somehow requires more brain power/thinking on my part to make anything non-Asian.  And all that thinking slows me down.  Not that this is a complicated dish at all.  It will be made again for sure because the little one loved it.  It freezes well and that a neat little trick is to buy little aluminum disposable loaf tins and freeze a couple of these for those days when you just cannot find it in you to cook a meal.  Make a side salad, open a bottle of red wine and eat out of paper plates! 🙂

I often get asked what to send a friend who is unwell, recovering from surgery or has just had a baby.  This is a good one for that.  There is something about casseroles that just comforts people, making this perfect for sending to friend in need.

Penne with Chicken Sausage and Cheese adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. chicken or turkey sausage, casings
    removed
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes in puree, tomatoes coarsely chopped and puree reserved
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (I used this because I had it lying around and it made the dish creamy and yummy.  Original recipe calls for ricotta which I don’t like much in baked casseroles)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Method
  1. Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute
  3. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into bite-size pieces, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes
  4. Add the tomatoes and puree and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt.
  5. Cook penne or any other tubular pasta per instructions on box
  6. Mix pasta with sauce, mozzarella and mascarpone. Spread in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the parmesan.
  7. Bake until the cheeses are melted and the tips of the pasta are crusty, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
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