Baked pasta is the ultimate comfort food, but we never made it this way until about five years ago. This Baked Penne With Sausage is Maddalena’s sister Lisa’s recipe, and what makes it unique is that she uses mascarpone cheese along with mozzarella, and sausage instead of ground beef.
This dish offers an explosion of flavor. The chunks of sausage deliver a nice bite and the mascarpone cheese makes the filling perfectly creamy and delicious.
Making the Sauce
The sauce for this recipe is amazingly easy to make. The only real cutting to do is to dice the onions, which is easily done with the 9-1/4″ French Chef.
If you need some instruction on how to dice onions, take a look at Cutco’s video, How to Cut Onions 3 Ways.
The garlic cloves for the sauce are left whole, as are the basil leaves.
The remaining ingredients include crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of sugar to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes.
Four 28-ounce cans of the crushed tomatoes go into this recipe, so Cutco’s easy-to-use Can Opener comes in handy.
A pro tip is to save any extra sauce for spaghetti or our Chicken Parmigiana recipe.
Making the Baked Penne
For the sausage, we like to use sweet sausage links. Use Cutco’s Super Shears to cut open their casings to remove the meat. Add it to a skillet to brown, breaking it up as it cooks. We like to leave the sausage crumbles a little chunky so you get a nice bite each time. Crumbling the sausage too fine makes it more of a Bolognese and while delicious, it’s not the goal of this dish.
The sausage is added to cooked penne pasta, along with mascarpone, mozzarella and Romano cheeses and a little salt and pepper.
Once all that is done, it’s time to prepare the pan for the oven. First, using a Ladle, add some tomato sauce to the bottom of the pan to coat it.
Then, add the sausage, pasta and cheese mixture.
Top everything with additional sauce and cheese and place in a 375 F oven for about 40 to 50 minutes. When baked through, place the pan under the broiler. This is basically non-negotiable for this dish because the crispness of the cheese and flavor from the browning adds the most incredible layers of flavor!
A couple of notes when making Baked Penne With Sausage, it’s okay to use ricotta instead of mascarpone and go light on the salt because the cheese, sauce and sausage already have it.
When heating this up the next day, cut thin slices and toast them in a pan like you would French toast. The cheese crisps up and the slice is heated via its own natural juices so the flavor is intensified.
This dish also holds up nicely in the freezer, to have on hand for nights when you need an easy dinner.
Baked Penne With Sausage
For the homemade sauce:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, whole
- 4 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 fresh basil leaves
For the baked penne:
- 6 sweet sausage links, removed from casings
- 1 pound of penne pasta
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 10 ounces shredded mozzarella, additional to top
- 1/4 cup Romano grated cheese, additional to top
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Make the sauce:
- In a large pot over medium heat, add oil.
- Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook down for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and fresh basil. Stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer while preparing the rest of the dish.
Make the baked penne:
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- In a skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage (no oil is necessary as sausage gives off fat). Don't overcook because the sausage will dry out, just cook until it turns light brown.
- After the sausage is cooked, crumble to desired consistency. We like ours a little chunkier.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the pasta, set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the sausage, pasta, mascarpone cheese, mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- In a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, coat the bottom of the pan with some sauce.
- Add the sausage mixture to the baking dish.
- Top with additional sauce, and mozzarella and grated cheeses.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. We love to throw on the broiler at the end until crispy!
- Save extra sauce for spaghetti or try our Chicken Parmigiana recipe.