Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses

I received three cookbooks for Hanukkah (I am easy to shop for). One of them, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, I cooked from in a previous post. Today, I’m sharing a recipe that I made from the second one, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes, which my older son gave me for Hanukkah.

Tuscan Sun Baked PastaBaked Pasta with Sausage & Four Cheeses
From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes
(with my own modifications in italics)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. fresh sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup soffritto (recipe below)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) whole milk ricotta
  • 8 oz. fontina, cubed
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, cubed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in dry sauté pan
Directions
Preheat oven to 375º. Bring the pasta water to a boil and add salt. Make the soffritto (recipe below). In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up as it browns, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine, turn the heat up to a boil, and cook until much of the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the oregano, soffritto, seasonings, and tomatoes along with their juices. Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes, or until thick and savory.
Cook the rigatoni a minute less than the time required on the package (since it will continue cooking in the oven), then drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the fontina and a splash of the pasta water, then add the drained rigatoni and continue mixing. Add the sausage mixture and mozzarella, tossing to mix well.
Oil a 9×13″ baking dish, and then pour in the pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden flecked and hot.
This is my new favorite baked pasta, it is so yummy and comforting.
Soffritto
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Sauté the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5-7 minutes. Reserve until needed in the recipe above.

Caesar Salad Pasta with Chicken

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes because it’s one that I created completely on my own. Years ago, my hubbie & I used to consistently order this dish at Cheesecake Factory until they eventually took it off their menu. We enjoyed it so much I decided to try to replicate it. It probably took me about a half dozen tries before I perfected it. It’s a hot pasta dish with a sauce flavored like a Caesar dressing, wilted romaine, grilled chicken and toasted bread crumbs. It’s really an entire meal in one dish but if you wanted a side dish then I would recommend something like roasted carrots or baked tomatoes to contrast with the beige and green of the pasta. Without further ado, here is the recipe and photos.

Caesar Salad Pasta with Chicken
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast pieces
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 c. fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 packet Hollandaise sauce mix
  • 1 c. fat-free milk (or per instructions on mix)
  • ¼ c. butter (or per instructions on mix)
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8-10 rolled anchovy fillets with capers, drained
  • 2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2-3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 box (13.25 oz) thin spaghetti
  • 1 head romaine lettuce or 2 hearts of romaine, cut crosswise into ¾” strips
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Directions
Make marinade: Combine ⅓  c. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. olive oil,  1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. Dijon and 2 garlic cloves. Add to chicken in a resealable plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Make bread crumbs: Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and bread crumbs and sauté until crumbs are lightly browned and crispy. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain & set aside, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water. Remove chicken from marinade & grill. (if grilling is not an option you can broil or sauté the chicken).  Slice crosswise and set aside, covered with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, make Hollandaise sauce according to package directions (mine called for 1 c. milk and ¼ c. butter). Place in a blender the 6 cloves garlic, anchovy fillets, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce and 2 tsp. Dijon. Blend on low speed to combine. Add hot Hollandaise and purée until well mixed.

Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and romaine. Warm over medium-low heat until romaine just begins to wilt. If sauce is too thick add up to 1 cup of reserved pasta cooking water, ¼ cup at a time. Transfer to serving bowl.  Arrange sliced chicken on top and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a pepper grinder on the side. Sit back & wait for the compliments.

I served it with roasted asparagus because it was in the fridge and I needed to use it before it went bad.

Turkey Vegetable Noodle Casserole

I made a yummy healthy casserole the other night – turkey, vegetables, noodles & a light cream sauce. Wait, how did I make a cream sauce light and healthy? First, I did NOT use any condensed cream of XYZ soup (that’s what I call cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of celery, etc). Second, I did NOT use fat-free half-and-half nor fat-free sour cream nor fat-free cream cheese. I generally don’t like using any of those products because there are too many items on the ingredient list that I can’t pronounce. What I did use was evaporated fat-free milk. It’s my secret ingredient when I want the creamy taste but not the calories of cream. Because evaporated milk is just regular milk that has had half of the water removed, it’s thick & creamy. I guess my secret ingredient is not so secret any more.

I started out looking for a non-sandwich recipe to use up a bunch of deli sliced turkey that I had. The first idea that came to mind was a tetrazzini casserole. And, it just evolved from there. I used the extra-wide curly noodles that my youngest likes but found a whole grain version. I threw in lots of vegetables to up the nutrition factor. The veggies that I used were mushrooms, red bell pepper & broccoli but you could use whatever you have in your fridge. Also, the casserole would be just as good with leftover Thanksgiving turkey or cooked diced chicken or even cubes of ham.

Turkey Noodle Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. whole grain extra wide curly noodles
  • Spray oil
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 12-oz. can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 c. broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups sliced deli turkey, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tbsp. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika (I use the sweet paprika)

Directions

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Par-cook broccoli in microwave until just barely al dente and bright green (it takes about 3 minutes in my microwave). Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a large non-stick sauté pan with spray oil and heat over high heat. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms to pan and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, stirring constantly.

Cooked mushrooms, onions & garlic

Mix chicken broth, Italian seasoning & cornstarch. Add to pan and heat until it just barely starts simmering & thickening. Reduce heat to medium. Add evaporated milk and mix well. Add broccoli, red pepper, turkey & noodles and mix thoroughly. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Casserole ready to be covered with foil and placed in oven

Transfer turkey-noodle-vegetable mixture to a 9″x13″ baking pan coated with spray oil. Coat a piece of foil with spray oil & cover the pan with spray side down. Place in oven & bake for 20 minutes.

Mix Parmesan, panko & paprika. Remove foil from casserole & sprinkle Parmesan-panko mixture on top. Bake for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!