In preparation for our baby to arrive, I made up a large batch of this baked penne pasta. We enjoyed half of it for a few meals that week, and I froze the rest so we’d have a dinner ready during the busy early weeks with a newborn. (I also stocked our freezer with meatballs, chicken taquitos, and pizza dough for other easy meals.)
While it did take some effort to prepare this dish, the payoff in terms of number of meals we’ll get out of it made it worth the work. The different components come together nicely to make a really satisfying meal. Pasta, turkey sausage, tomato sauce with a bit of cream, and cheese all go into this delicious baked pasta. Don’t be wary of the cottage cheese in the recipe- it really works here, and you won’t even know it’s there. I was skeptical myself, but I’m so glad I didn’t skip it or make a substitution.
One year ago: Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
- 1 lb. cottage cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
- Table salt
- 1 lb. penne or ziti pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 20 oz. turkey Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided (I used 1 tsp. dried basil instead)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 cup whole milk (or heavy cream)
- 8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until the pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano (and dried basil, if using dried instead of fresh); simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup fresh basil (if using) and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and milk. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. (At this point, I removed about half of the milk sauce and only ended up using the other half.) To the milk sauce, add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.
- Transfer the pasta to a 9×13-inch baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons fresh basil and serve.