What to do before things go bad
|You make baked penne of course! I had a situation last night. Hubbs went out to farm land last week to visit his brother. On his way back he stopped in at his favorite butcher out in those parts and bought 3 pounds of the best sweet italian sausage in alla world. Made from an Amish man ;) When he got home he froze 2 packages and left one in the fridge as a subtle hint, I guess. hehee|
What he forgot to tell me was that it was in there. I discovered it yesterday morning and realized I needed to come up with something pretty quick before it went bad. Normally we use this delicious sausage on my pizzas, but there was no time yesterday morning to whip up a batch of dough and sauce.. so I went to the dungeon thinking about what I could do with it.
Apparently my cravings haven't caught up with summer yet, because the only thing that sounded really good was some sort of baked pasta dish - yanno.. something hearty that sticks to your ribs and warms you up after a freezing day of Ohio blizzard? Oh well.. making the baked pasta dish would help me to use up a good amount of cheese that I had laying in the dairy drawer of the fridge as well as the sausage.
Although not a light summery dinner.. this was fabulous and has become a definite keeper. Not only was it extremely tasty but it's one of those dishes that I just threw stuff in and hoped for the best. When those dinners turn out excellent, I get happy happy! I love when I don't use a recipe.. and I don't know why I don't do that more often. Well I guess it's mainly because there are sooooo many spectacular recipes out there that I just need to try, eh?! :)
Alrighty then.. I was thinking layered lasagna like.. but I wanted to use up some of the Penne in the pasta cupboard. I wanted to incorporate some of my fresh herbs and I had just enough of my marinara thawed out waiting to be used up. Perfect!
The fresh basil added the freshness and herbiness I was looking for, the penne was cooked al dente for that bite I was going for, the sausage - oh yeah, the sausage - well the sausage wasn't sweet italian as I had expected! Dear Hubbs, apparently was in a rush when purchasing and didn't realize he had bought your basic pork sausage with no seasonings. hehee! It was still the best sausage I've had, I just got to use up more of my herbies from my pot along with some dried herb. I added fresh basil & parsley and dried oregano. Turned out great! I had a loaf of french bread that I was allowing to go stale for Panzanella this weekend, but decided to heat it up in the oven the last 10 minutes of baking time and I had oven fresh bread slathered in creamy Amish butter to go with.. serious Yum! :D
8 oz. penne
1.5 lbs. sweet italian sausage*
2 TBS. + 2 tsp. fresh basil, rough chopped and divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small or 1/2 of a large vidalia onion, small diced
15 oz. pkg. of ricotta cheese
2 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
2-2 1/2 c. marinara sauce
2 c. shredded cheese (I used a four cheese italian "crumble" mix)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a large skillet start to brown the sausage, when it's almost done, drain excess grease and add onions and garlic; continue to cook until sausage is browned, onions are almost translucent and garlic is fragrant. About 5 more minutes.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, salt well. Add Penne and cook for about 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
Chop the basil roughly and set aside. Mix the 2 tsp. of basil, 1 tsp. parsley and 1 tsp. of dried oregano with the ricotta cheese, set aside.
Once the penne and sausage are cooked, start your layering by first covering the bottom of an 8" x 8" Pyrex baking dish with the 1/3 of the marinara. Then add 1/2 of the basil. Follow with 1/2 of the sausage and a few good dollops of 1/2 of the ricotta cheese mixture. Spread the cheese over the sausage. Finally sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheese on top. Continue layering in this manner once more, excluding the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/3 c. of remaining marinara. Over the last layer of the ricotta mixture, spread the remaining marinara. Sprinkle with remaining basil and shredded cheese.
Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and turns golden brown. Serve with a nice salad and good crunchy italian or french bread.
*To give the plain pork sausage an italian taste, I added 1 TBS. fresh basil, 1 TBS. fresh parsley and 1 tsp. dried oregano along with the onions and garlic.