Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta Bake

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Pasta

      I learned a long time ago to not trust anyone who doesn’t like pasta because it is arguably the best thing in the world. The versatility of pasta is basically unmatched. Also, it is so easy to cook that I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t know how to cook pasta. (If per chance you are that person, I mean no offense to you. Please email me promptly and I’ll willingly create a post dedicated to teaching you how to cook pasta.)

     This next recipe is delicious, hearty, and easy. The Italian sausage and Anaheim peppers provide a nice bit of spice to the flavors of the garlic, onion, and tomato sauce. Whenever I make this dish, I always freeze at least half of it to save for later. However, it almost never stays in my freezer for long because if I know this meal is available, it’s about all I will want to eat.

Time to make: 1.5 episodes of Portlandia (30-40 minutes)

Freeze-ability: 8/10

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients:

  • ½ of a yellow onion
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb ground spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce (Note: this is the amount I used. Some people like a super saucy pasta and if that sounds like you then use a slightly bigger can.)

Steps:

  1. Mise-en-place:                    20160310_173817
    1. Dice the onion.  If you don’t know the proper way to dice an onion, I would definitely recommend checking out this video.
    2. Dice the pepper. I would strongly recommend removing the seeds before you do this.
    3. Mince the garlic.
    4. Slice the mozzarella cheese.
  2. Begin boiling the water for the pasta. While it gets to boiling temperature…
  3. In a large saute pan, begin browning the sausage over medium heat. Use your spatula to break it up in small pieces as you go. When the sausage is no longer pink in the middle, remove as much of the grease from the pan as possible. I do this by moving all of the sausage to one side, tilting the pan down a bit in the opposite direction, and blotting it out with a paper towel. Is this the safest plan? Probably not. But it works and is easy so just remember you’re dealing with hot oils and don’t burn yourself.
  4. Once that is done, add the peppers, onion, and garlic to the sausage. Cook this for 3-4 minutes until the onions have become a bit more transluscent and the peppers have softened a bit.
  5. Stir in the salt and pepper. Then add the tomato sauce.20160310_180256
  6. By the time all of this has been done, your water should be boiling. Add some salt and throw in the pasta. Now would be a good time turn on your oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Continue to allow the sauce to simmer while the pasta boils. Stir both occasionally. This will keep the pasta from sticking to itself.
  8. IMPORTANT: We want the pasta to be cooked al dente. This will keep it from getting mushy in the freezer. When you bake it / unfreeze it, it will soften up some more. Al dente noodles are no longer crunchy at all but haven’t been cooked to the point of being super soft. They should still hold some firmness when you bite into it. Begin checking your pasta 2-3 minutes before the cooking instructions said and when it reaches this point, drain pasta in a colander.
  9. Put pasta back in pot and mix in sauce.20160310_181455
  10. Scoop the pasta into a casserole dish of whatever size you see fit. Top with slices of mozzarella cheese. I only used about ¼ of everything in that dish so that the rest could be distributed and frozen.20160310_181541
  11. Bake in oven for about ten minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and getting golden brown. I became impatient and hungry during this time so I turned on my broiler instead of waiting. While I don’t recommend this, if you decide to do this, be sure to leave your oven door propped open a tiny bit and keep a close eye on the dish. Broilers have the ability to turn a dish from raw to blackened very quickly.20160310_182545
  12. If you are freezing this dish, allow the pasta to cool before putting pasta into container and topping with cheese. I like to use disposable aluminum baking dishes for a lot of my freezer meals. That way, it is already in the dish it will be baked in. Just be certain that you then put the baking dish in a freezer Ziploc bag so that it doesn’t get freezer-burn                .20160310_184819
  13. To Reheat:  Take pasta out of oven.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  You can honestly put the pasta, still wrapped in the foil, in the oven while it is preheating.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until pasta is hot throughout.  Remove foil and put back in oven for 5-10 more minutes or until mozzarella becomes all melty-golden-delicious brown.
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