A comfort pasta dish that's freezer-friendly and a delicious leftover. Great for crowds, this yummy dish will not disappoint!
There has been a long-time debate on whether penne trumps ziti in a pasta bake. In my opinion, it does! But if you're a ziti fan, please feel free to substitute. It will still taste fabulous.
When I make pasta, I usually make a lot of it. Why? Because pasta is just one of those comfort foods that is delicious left over. This particular recipe is similar to lasagna but without the ricotta mixture. By utilizing a food processor, you can easily sneak in veggies for a healthier take on the stereotypical pasta bake. And with the help of disposable 8x8 pans, we will divide this recipe in two and place the other half in the freezer for another day.
Baked Penne with Sausage
2 cups Penne Noodles
One (1) 1lb package of Italian Sausage (spicy, sweet, or mild)
3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1/2 of a Large Onion
1 Carrot, peeled
1 Celery Stalk
3 Garlic Cloves
2 tbsp chiffonade Basil
2 cups Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
6 tbsp Grated Parmesan, divided
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella, divided
Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, then add your penne. You'll want the cooking time to be just about a minute short of al dente because it will finish cooking in the oven.
Using a food processor, chop your onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Set aside. Alternatively, you can dice finely by hand.
Add 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once simmering, add sausage. Break it up into pieces to cook it thoroughly.
Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to drain fat, place into separate bowl, and set aside.
Add remaining tsp of olive oil along with chopped veggies.
Allow them to cook through and soften for about 5 minutes. Stir often - we do not want them to burn. Reduce heat if necessary.
Once veggies are softened, add crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes.
Partially cover with lid and simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
Remove cover and add heavy cream, fresh basil, and 2 tbsp parmesan.
Add Italian sausage to sauce and then gently fold in your cooked penne.
Prepare two 8x8 pans with cooking spray and spoon in enough of the pasta mixture to cover the bottom. This will be your first layer.
Top each first layer with 1 tbsp of parmesan and about a 1/4 cup of mozzarella.
Evenly divide and layer on the remaining pasta mixture in both pans. This will be our second and final layer.
Top the final layers with 1 more tbsp of parmesan and 1/4 cup of mozzarella.
Cover both with foil. If not nonstick, make sure you give it a spritz of cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place pans in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes.
Turn heat to a broil and allow the cheese to bubble and brown for about 3-5 minutes.
Carefully take out of the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before enjoying.
If preparing for a meal ahead of time, place into refrigerator until ready to cook. It will be good for about 2 days refrigerated. Cook time may need to be adjusted to about 25-35 minutes covered with this method.
You'll find that the 8x8 will fit perfectly in a gallon freezer Ziplock bag. If freezing one for a later date, it will last in your freezer for about 3 months.
Make sure your freezer pasta bake is thawed overnight before cooking.
Need Pairing Ideas?
In my opinion, all this pasta needs is to be topped with some thinly sliced basil and maybe some extra parmesan. But if you're looking to make it more of a meal, I suggest a classic Caesar salad and garlic bread on the side.
Add as much or as little cheese as you like! You could also make this recipe your own by adding different vegetables. Spinach and mushrooms would taste great here.