Cheesy Baked Penne

While everyone is concerned about swine flu H1N1, it seems another disease is spreading rapidly this fall. It’s spreading like wildfire from blog to blog.  That’s right, I’m talking about cook’s block or food blogger’s block.

Just yesterday, I was discussing this very issue on Twitter with Lucy and Kamran after reading their recent blog posts on the subject. Well, it seems I have caught the bug, too.  Although, in addition to simply having no inspiration and nothing to write about, I seem to have developed a new strain that includes major kitchen disasters as one of its symptoms.  Over the weekend, I had two failed attempts at my Daring Bakers’ challenge for this month.  Cleaning up the giant mess (twice) left me exhausted and not in the mood to deal with anything else.  Then, this evening I planned on making stuffed eggplant for dinner, but did not think to salt the eggplant and wound up with horribly bitter eggplant and no dinner.  So, I cleaned up yet another kitchen mess, but had no dinner to show for it!

This evening I was out of luck (I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while and am very low on food that wasn’t frozen solid) and we ended up grabbing dinner out.  However, over the weekend when my lack of inspiration hit, I was prepared with one of my standby pantry dinners – pasta.  I try to keep pasta on hand so that we don’t end up going out to eat every time I am low on energy and inspiration.  This time around, I made a quick meat sauce with Italian turkey sausage and tossed it with some penne pasta.  Layered with ricotta, mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano cheeses, it was like a cheesy baked faux-sagna.

If I hadn’t been having “one of those days” and had given this some thought, I would have used this Homemade Ricotta from In Jennie’s Kitchen in my pasta.  Next time… And there will be a next time!

Sometimes my lack of inspiration ends in a complete failure (like tonight), but every once in a while it pays off with a great dish like this baked pasta!

Cheesy Baked Penne

  • 14.5 ounce box of multi-grain penne
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage and brown in the oil.  Once the sausage is cooked, add the onion and garlic.  Saute with the browned sausage until the onion is soft (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan.  Season with the basil, thyme, and some salt (to taste).  Stir to combine all of the ingredients, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Prepare a large baking dish with cooking spray. Coat the bottom of the dish with one cup of the meat sauce.  Add one third of the pasta and top with one third of the remaining sauce.  Spoon half of the ricotta cheese over the pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle with one third of the mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Repeat the layers of pasta, sauce, and cheeses. Top the cheese layer with the remaining pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano cheese on the top of the pasta and sauce.

Bake the casserole for 30 minutes until all of the cheese is bubbly and has melted. The top should be golden. Serve with a salad and some fresh bread.

15 Responses to Cheesy Baked Penne

  1. Oh no, I didn’t realize it was contagious! And here’s another funny coincidence: I have all the ingredients in the fridge to make baked penne this week. Yours looks delish!

  2. Wow, thanks for putting it in writing Jen. When it hits, it hits us all, I guess. Ya know when you’re blogging about egg salad that you’ve run out of inspiration for a bit…lol. Luckily, these blogger blocks usually pass and something delicious pops up in a magazine or catches our eye in a cookbook. Your penne looks positively delish, nothing fancy intended nor needed!

  3. I had the exact same thing for dinner this weekend – but with pork sausages! I noticed we have been eating a lot of similar dishes the past few weeks. So funny. I’m sure this had the same effect as mine – comforting and really delicious! Sorry about your mishaps.

  4. yum! That’s all I can think of to say about this recipe. Your photos are great, too…which only adds to the “yum” factor. Great site. I’ll be back.


  5. IMHO, cheese cures a myriad of ills… so let’s hope this dish brings the beginning of some foodie inspiration! And an end to the cooking disasters.

    We had a dish like this last week (with spinach in it). Great stuff, and the leftovers were even better than the original.

  6. This looks great! I know how the lack of inspiration goes… That’s when I retreat to my bedroom with my old fav cookbooks and let my mind wander. It always reinspires me! Now, I do my DB this weekend… I am gearing up for a lot of work!

  7. Yum yum. This is a comfort food. Sausages and cheese is just what I expect form a baked penne. Now, I’m hungry. Love the dish so much.

  8. I can completely understand how the times come and you just feel in a rut and non-inspired, It happens to everyone. But for someone who was feeling in a rut this recipe and photos look divine.

    I want to jump in and take a bite. Thank u for sharing and try not to be too down, inspiration comes when u least expect it. :-)

  9. I was totally wanting to make a faux lasagna with penne! I have the no-bake lasagna noodles but wanted to use the wheat penne… Glad I found your post! and your photos look AWESOME! Thanks!