Diane Rossen Worthington

Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato Red Pepper and Sweet Sausage Sauce Recipe
Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato Red Pepper and Sweet Sausage Sauce

One-dish meals are great to serve to a group while watching award shows. Chili, beef stew and lasagna are time-honored dishes to serve for an Oscar party. The key is to have a dish that requires only a fork or spoon for eating on your lap. I like to surprise my guests with this pasta dish that is truly Seriously Simple to prepare and clean up.

Baked Penne Pasta is a perfect dish for casual entertaining. Here I have made a flavorful sauce of sweet sausage, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and arugula, enriched with some cream. The sauce clings to the pasta and the arugula offers a pleasant slightly bitter counterpoint to the red pepper tomato sauce. Best of all, you can make it a day ahead and finish it in the oven just before serving. Serve this along with a large mixed green salad with some Italian ingredients such as artichoke hearts, marinated beans, chopped salami and mozzarella cheese.

To drink? Begin with the Red Carpet Cocktail (see below) when your guests arrive. Believe me, everyone will get in the mood with this festive, bubbly drink. Italian red varietals such as Sangiovese and Barbera, along with a lighter styled California Zinfandel, are great choices to serve with the pasta.

Pick up some mini cupcakes or brownies for dessert. I also like to serve a plate of strawberries for a lighter dessert. With this menu, you can relax along with your guests. Happy viewing.

Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato, Red Pepper & Sweet Sausage Sauce

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 45 minutes

    Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato, Red Pepper & Sweet Sausage Sauce Recipe Ingredients

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

    1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    1 1/4 (26-ounce) bottles (4 cups) favorite marinara tomato sauce

    1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and finely chopped

    1 cup cream

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 pound penne pasta

    1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese

    1/2 bag (about 3 ounces) arugula leaves

    Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato, Red Pepper & Sweet Sausage Sauce Recipe Directions

      1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl combine the cheeses together and mix to blend.

      2. Heat a large deep casserole over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the sausage meat, breaking up the meat with a spoon as it cooks, for about 5 minutes or until no pinkness remains. Drain off most of the fat. Add the mushrooms and saute an additional 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomato sauce and red peppers, and simmer on medium heat another 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream, salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Reserve.

      3. Meanwhile add salt to large pot of boiling water. Add pasta and cook over high heat, about 10 to 11 minutes or until al dente. Drain well.

      4. Combine the pasta with the sauce in the pot and add 1 cup of the blended cheese and arugula leaves, mixing well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and evenly sprinkle the remaining blended cheese on top of the pasta.

      5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the casserole begins to bubble and the cheese is browned. Serve immediately.

      Advance Preparation: This can be prepared 1 day ahead through step 4, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before baking and uncover when baking. Preheat the oven just before baking.

    The Clever Cook Could:

    -- Divide this mixture into 2 smaller baking dishes and freeze one.

    -- Add cooked shredded chicken or turkey for a more substantial dish.

    -- Make it completely ahead and freeze it. Defrost before reheating.

    -- Use the sauce as a filling for omelets, on top of polenta or stirred into cooked pasta.

    Red Carpet Cocktail

    Serves one

    1 ounce St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)

    Chilled sparkling wine to top off the drink (use a moderately priced bottle like prosecco or cava)

    Twist of lemon

    Fill each Champagne glass with 1 ounce of elderflower liqueur. Slowly pour the sparkling wine 3/4 full. Garnish with the twist of lemon and serve immediately.

    Pasta Recipe, Italian Cuisine


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Baked Penne Pasta with Tomato Red, Pepper and Sweet Sausage Sauce

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