Casseroles tend to fall in the comfort food category because they are made with ingredients that warm our hearts, and satisfy that hunger in all of us. What makes casseroles so appealing, is that they are easy to prepare, and layered with some of the most enticing foods. Making an Italian casserole is not only delicious, but it’s a category of cuisine that we all enjoy.
Pasta, an inexpensive pantry ingredient that most of us already possess, is easy to top with Italian sausage sauce and a variety of simple cheeses. Mostaccioli is a dish my mom used to make us as kids because it was warm and tasty, and could feed us for a few days in a row. Tangy tomatoes with a can of tomato paste makes an easy sauce, but you can use the jarred stuff if that’s what you have on hand.
I love a load of good Italian cheeses, like fresh mozzarella, creamy ricotta and Parmesan sprinkled over the entire dish, turning this baked pasta into an ooey-gooey sensation when it arrives out of the oven. The flavors will remind you of your favorite trattoria in little Italy, or the best Italian mom-and-pop restaurant in your town.
1 pound Penne pasta, cooked for 7 minutes and drained
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casings
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, or other good quality tomatoes
6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine, or water
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into half moons
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
fresh parsley leaves, optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss pasta with olive oil and place in the bottom of casserole dish, set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat, add 2 teaspoons olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add oregano, red pepper flakes and salt, stir. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add sausage, breaking apart with spoon, as you stir. Cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and wine, stir to combine. Simmer sauce for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Spoon sauce over noodles in casserole. Top with mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan. Sprinkle with parsley and cover with foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and brown lightly on top for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!