Search

Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta

Now that the crisp and cool temps are here, the idea of comfort foods are what I crave. A popular comfort food to many is pasta and rightfully so. Pasta is one of those dishes that seems to hit the spot, leaving you with a satisfying carb coma. This Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta did exactly that. It was deliciously filling with pockets of creamy ricotta cheese, bites of Italian sausage, all blended with penne in a homemade tomato sauce. 

When I switched to a gluten free lifestyle less than a month ago, I thought my pasta days were over. I knew there were alternatives out there, such as pasta made from rice, quinoa and other non-gluten ingredients. I was just so skeptical because it wasn't wheat or semolina based pasta... and I wasn't sure that I would even like gluten free pasta. Well, I finally gave gluten free pasta a try and wow... I'm a fan. I specifically used brown rice pasta for this dish but of course, you're welcome to use regular or whole wheat penne. In fact, you can use any short pasta for this dish including farfalle, macaroni, ziti, shells, etc.

The best part of the dish is the ricotta and sausage. It really elevated the dish above the usual baked pasta casserole. The recipe makes a full 9x13 pan but I ended up making 2 smaller baking dishes of this recipe; one we ate and one we froze for later. To freeze, prepare the recipe



Baked Penne with Sausage & Creamy Ricotta
recipe adapted from Food & Wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound penne (I used gluten free brown rice penne)
3 cups ricotta 
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 15-30 seconds. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce. Transfer the remaining sauce to the pot with the pasta. Toss to combine.

Spoon the pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the reserved meat sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don't overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake the pasta in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

*Make Ahead/Freezer Meal: Prepare the recipe above but spoon the pasta into a freezer- and oven-safe container. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don't overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover and freeze. When ready to serve, defrost and bake the pasta in a 400 degree preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.


15 comments

  1. Love the new look! And this looks FANTASTIC! Love ricotta!

    ReplyDelete
  2. *drools* omg, this looks amazing!! So bookmarking this recipe :D I've actually never cooked pasta with sausage in it before but have been meaning to, so this will be my next recipe!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Man I can definitely get down with this dish as my comfort food. It looks delicious and I'm sure it is :)This one is a winner right here and thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I made this for dinner Sunday night. Trying out some recipes to freeze for when my baby comes next year. Me, my husband and my 21 month old loved this! I split it into 3 containers, we ate 1 and the other 2 went in the freezer. Looking forward to a night when I don't have anything to make so we can eat this again!

    ReplyDelete
  5. your directions are little confusing. YOu say to add each ingredient. but you never say if it's a different pot and then to remove certain items but If I follow these directions the way they are written then I would think i am adding all ingredients to the same pot which would end up being impossible to remove certain things.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous - thank you for your comment! You're right... it was a bit confusing (my apologies) and so I updated it to clarify. I hope the revisions are easier to understand. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This sounds really good and I'm looking forward to making freezer meals for next year when baby arrives and I don't have to cook. :)
    Just a couple questions:
    If you are going to freeze meals, do you have to bake them first before you freeze, some people say you do some say no you don't, I get so confused.
    Second: how long would these last in the freezer? 3-6 months?
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Anonymous! You don't have to bake this particular dish before freezing. I've found if the dish is baked before freezing, you'll only need to reheat the dish. But if the recipe requires baking to begin with, I tend to just freeze without baking and then just defrost and bake per recipe directions. As for how long dishes last in the freezer, I try to use/eat the freezer meals within 2 months. Any longer, the flavor and/or texture may not turn out very well. Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I made this for dinner tonight but tweeked the recipe. I used cut up chicken tenderloins in place of the sausage and cut up fresh basil in place of the bay leaf, and ground oregano in place of the fennel. I also used a whole wheat penne pasta and a bag of shredded mozarella (although fresh would be more tastey I'm sure). Finally, in place of the fresh parmesan I used Kraft shredded parme4san, romano, and asiago cheeses. It smells wonderful!!!! Now for the taste test.....between the two of us...4 thumbs up!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Came out well... Needed more salt.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I didn't ever find where the other 2 TBS of EVOO are suppose to go. I looked back over the recipe several times. Anyway I just made it and hopefully it'll still be good. It smells delicious! I'm GF and I cook for a friend who is too so it was exciting to find this recipe! Thanks for posting these recipes!

    ReplyDelete
  12. So is this recipe already doubled? One to eat after you cook and one to freeze for later?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Anonymous - The recipe as written above makes a full 9x13 pan but I ended up making 2 smaller baking dishes of this recipe; one we ate and one we froze for later.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am making 3 pans of this ahead (not cooked) and freezing them. When I thaw them and then bake do I keep them covered or uncovered in the oven while baking?? Don't want to make a mistake as it's for a large gathering.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous - baked covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for the last 15 minutes so the cheese gets slightly browned.

    ReplyDelete