Monday, January 17, 2011

Baked Penne with Sausage and Tomato Pesto Sauce


The wonderful flavors of Italy have been wafting out of my kitchen the past few days.  It's cold outside and that means "stick-to-your-ribs" dining at our house.  We had some friends over for dinner on Friday and I decided to do one of our favorite baked pasta dishes.  

The beauty of this dish, besides the fact that it delicious, is that it can be put together a day ahead, refrigerated and baked just before serving.  It gives one time to concentrate on preparing an appetizer (in this instance I did an antipasti tray) as well as relaxing a bit before the guests arrive.

The recipe says it serves 6.  The first time I made the dish, we were having a total of eight for dinner.  Never wanting to run low on food, I doubled the recipe.  I soon realized that I'd made enough to feed a lot of people for a long time.  Unless you are feeding lumberjacks, this recipe (not doubled) will feed 10 to 12 quite amply,



Pasta with Italian Sausage and Tomato Pesto Sauce from Seriously Simple and From a Writer's Kitchen

Sauce:

1 pound italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 26-ounce bottles of marinara sauce
6 tbsp basil pesto
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium high heat and add the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula.  Saute until no pinkness remains--about 5 minutes.  Add the onion, stirring frequently for another five minutes.  Stir in the minced garlic and cook an additional one minute.  Add the marinara sauce and reduce the heat medium.  Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about fifteen minutes.  Stir in the pesto, salt and pepper.  

Pasta:

1 pound penne pasta, cooked a couple minutes less than package directions as the pasta will continue to cook when the dish is baked.

Additions:

8 ounces of smoked Gouda, finely diced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 six ounce bag baby spinach leaves

In a large bowl, combine the pasta with all but one cup of the sauce, the diced Gouda, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the spinach leaves.  Combine well.

Oil a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread the remaining one cup of sauce over the bottom.  Spoon the pasta mixture into the baking dish and top with the remaining 2/3 cup of Parmesan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This dish can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature before baking.

ENJOY!