Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pizza Pasta Casserole

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Let's face it, pizza is pretty easy to serve when friends are over. But the thing that gets me is that it takes more effort to enjoy pizza like everyone else if you happen to be gluten free. It's not like we can just omit various toppings on the pizza, but rather have to have a whole different crust all together. However, I've found a way to enjoy all the flavors of my favorite pizzas another way... in pasta form! Sure, it requires the use of a fork, but for me, this Pizza Pasta Casserole highlights the best part of pizza - the toppings. Whether you like onions, peppers, sausage, pepperoni, or even extra cheese on your pizza, you can throw it all into this dish along with pasta, a zesty sauce and bake it up until the cheese is melted. So grab a fork and have some pizza!...

One of my biggest cravings lately is a good pizza. When I saw this recipe pop up on Heather's site, I immediately put it on my menu. Finally - a dish that's easy to make and captures the flavors of pizza! I made this with gluten free corn pasta and added my favorite pizza toppings into the dish. Feel free to adjust the recipe to suit your tastes and pizza preferences. I really liked how easy it was to prepare and it's versatile too. For those that are looking for make ahead/freezer meals, this recipe fits the bill too. I've included make ahead/freezer meal instructions below.)

To help make this dish, I used another product from Victoria's Fine Foods. This time, their all natural Classic Marinara sauce was what help tie everything together deliciously. It's their Signature Sauce, Victoria Classic Marinara, and it's prepared with imported Italian plum tomatoes, fresh onion, fresh garlic, fresh basil and Italian olive oil all slow cooked to perfection... completely all natural and without any tomato paste or fillers added. 

Pizza Pasta Casserole
recipe adapted from Hezzi-D's Books & Cooks

1/2 pound dried macaroni, penne or shell pasta (or any short gluten free pasta)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 pound fresh Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups Classic Marinara sauce; homemade or store bought
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup sliced packaged pepperoni - reserve a few slices for topping
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or shredded pizza cheese blend
fresh minced parsley for garnish
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the dried pasta according to package directions. Cook until al dente, drain and transfer back to pot.

In a large skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper, cooking until softened. Transfer mixture to pot with pasta.

In the same skillet (no need to rinse) over medium high heat, add the Italian sausage and brown until cooked through. Drain any rendered fat and transfer sausage to pot.

In the large pot, add the marinara/pasta sauce, dried spices, and pepperoni. Stir to fully combine.

Transfer half of pasta mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with half of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover the cheese layer with the remaining pasta and top with the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese. Place the reserved slices of pepperoni over the top of the last cheese layer.

Bake the casserole uncovered in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until top is melted and warmed through.

Garnish with fresh minced parley and serve hot with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

* To make ahead/freezer meals - Prepare as directed but prepare the dish in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. Allow to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap, a layer of foil and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake casserole uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until cheese melts and middle is warmed through.

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