I think I’m just going to cook casseroles and one dish meals for the rest of this school year. Anything that makes my life easier is on my list of things to cook lately. This was meant to be the week I did two days worth of cooking for my freezer to make my life easier over the next few weeks, but I haven’t even been able to find the time for that. “Maybe” next week. At least that’s what I’m promising myself.
This was a quick meal to throw together for this evening and it’s always a big hit. There is nothing in here that makes anyone complain when they ask me, “What’s for dinner, Mom.”
I used penne but you can just as easily use rigatoni, ziti, or even elbow macaroni. This is really nothing more than lasagna in easier form. I do enjoy making lasagna every now and again, and normally use sliced meatballs or sausage for my lasagna, but this is perfect and simple for when you are short on time.
Baked Penne with Sweet Italian Sausage:
- 1 lb. Penne Pasta
- 2 lbs. Bulk Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage
- 1 27 oz. Can Crushed Tomatoes with juice
- 1 15 oz. Can Tomato Sauce
- 12 Basil Leaves, chopped
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb. Mozzarella, shredded
- 15 oz. Container Ricotta Cheese
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
In a large sauté pan, begin browning your sausage. Once evenly browned, drain any excessive fat from the pan.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato sauce to the pan, stir well and bring to a simmer. Add the minced garlic and basil and stir well. Allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Once water is boiling, salt the water and add your pasta. Stir well. Don’t cook the pasta to completion or based on the package directions. You only want to cook the pasta partially since this is going to bake in the oven and complete the cooking process. I usually allow it to boil for about 6 to 7 minutes.
Once pasta is done, drain it in a colander and then pour it back into the stock pot, or into a large mixing bowl. Now add the sausage mixture, 2/3 of the shredded mozzarella, and the entire container of ricotta cheese. Stir until fully combined.
Pour this into a large baking dish – mine was slightly larger than 13″ x 9″ – cover with aluminum foil and allow to bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until hot and bubbly.
Once done, remove the foil and sprinkle the top with the reserved mozzarella cheese. Return the pan to the oven and allow it to cook until the cheese is completely melted.
Remove from oven and serve immediately.
NOTE: This recipe makes enough for 8 people. You can either make the full recipe if you have that many to feed, halve the recipe for a smaller dinner, or bake this up in two separate dishes where you can eat one tonight and freeze the other one for a future meal.
Serve with a side salad and some garlic bread.