12/10/06

Unbaked Penne

I had cheeseburgers and buns on the counter planned for dinner last night as I was in no mood to cook. My oldest daughter raised her eyebrow at me and said; "Cheeseburgers. Again?" Yeah... that was all it took. I put it all away and looked (once again) in the refrigerator for something to 'jump out at me'.

I saw a 1 pound package of Italian sausage. I had no idea what I would use it for when I bought it, but I bought it anyway knowing I'd use it on pizza or in a spaghetti sauce, etc. So I took it out and started to brown it, still not knowing what I was going to do with it.

The result? This yummy amazing dish! It was going to be a 'Baked Ziti' type meal, but I was running the oldest child to dance class and the other two were hungry and there was no time to wait for a 30 minute bake time. It's my own version as I never (never!) follow recipes and usually take 2-4 versions of the same dish and make my own from all four. That is how this was born.



Unbaked Penne

2 T olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
12 tomatoes, peeled and diced into the pan with the juice**
2 t dried thyme
2 t dried basil
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 pound dried penne pasta
3/4 c fresh shredded parmesan/asiago/romano cheese mix (or just parmesan if that's all you have)

(*After last summers garden harvest I froze whole tomatoes in 1 gallon bags. This is what I used to make my sauce. There were approximately 10-12 medium sized tomatoes, peeled and frozen in the bag. I dumped them into the pan frozen and mashed them as they thawed. I think you could use fresh instead, or if you must, choose a large 24-30 oz. sized can of whole peeled canned tomatoes.)

To peel fresh tomatoes you drop them into boiling water for approximately 10-60 seconds until the skin splits. Place the tomato on a paper towel or clean dish towel, or in a colander, and when cool enough to touch, slip the skins right off!


Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until mostly tender. Meanwhile make the sauce;

Heat the oil in a very large pan. Brown the sausage for about 4-5 minutes, mashing into small bite sized chunks. Add the onion and garlic, stiring constantly. Cook about 4-5 minutes more until the meat is cooked through.

If you are using whole frozen tomatoes, remove the sausage from the pan and place the tomatoes into the pan to thaw and smash as soon as they are warmed through and reduced to a sauce, add the sausage mixture back to the pan with it. If you are using fresh or canned, add the tomatoes to the sausage mixture all at once. Add the spices.

Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 if you have time. Pour the mixture and the pasta into an oven/broiler safe container. My sauce pans are metal with no plastic on the handles so I used the pan it was cooking in.

Cover the top of the pasta and sausage with the cheese. Preheat your oven and place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes until the top is a beautiful golden brown on the tippy top of the edges.

Let it set for 5-10 minutes while you set the table... this helps it 'set up' and the pasta will absorb the tomato sauce. Serve with a crusty bread and salad.

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