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Double-Cheese Penne with Sausage & Hot Cherry Peppers

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Serves 4-6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 56

There's something about a baked pasta that makes a regular ol' pasta night seem like something special. This one, with sausage, tomatoes, garlic, and two cheeses, is a family-favorite.

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. dried penne or ziti 
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (4 or 5 links), casings removed
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp.)
  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes 
  • 2 or 3 pickled Italian hot cherry peppers (from the jar), cored, seeded, and diced (about 1-1/2 Tbs.)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2-1/2 oz.); more for sprinkling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. shredded low-moisture part-skim mozzarella (about 2 cups)

In a large covered pot, bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Lightly grease an 8x11-inch baking dish or 6 individual (1-1/2 cup) gratin dishes with 1 tsp. of the olive oil.

Add the penne or ziti to the boiling water and cook until it’s just tender but still firm to the tooth, about 11 minutes. Drain the pasta well and return it to its cooking pot.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a large straightsided skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage, let it sit for a minute, and then start stirring and breaking it into bite-size pieces with the side of a slotted metal spoon. Cook until lightly browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate using the slotted spoon.

Add the garlic to the pan, season with salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until it colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook at a rapid simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon, for 5 minutes so the sauce thickens slightly.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Stir the sausage and its juices, the diced peppers, and 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano into the sauce. Cook, stirring, until the sausage is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta in the pot and stir well. Spread the pasta and sauce evenly in the baking dish or gratin dishes. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and the remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano. Put the baking dish or gratin dishes on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese melts and browns in places, 2 to 4 minutes. (check often to be sure they don’t burn). Serve immediately with more Parmigiano, if you like.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 610; Fat (g): fat g 28; Fat Calories (kcal): 250; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 11; Protein (g): protein g 40; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 49; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1270; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 65; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Delicious! I used mild italian chicken sausage, and sweet/hot red peppers instead of cherry peppers. It turned out amazing. Great flavor. Might be my favorite pasta dish now!

This was okay -- just not very special. I will go back to my own time-tested pasta and sauce converted to a baked pasta. I was intrigued by cherry peppers, which I'd never used before, but was not impressed. I think dried red pepper flakes give better flavor when I want heat. My sauce usually consists of tomatoes (canned and fresh), lots of garlic, onion, mushrooms, capers, Worcestershire (or anchovies), basil and oregano,and red pepper flakes. Bake with pasta mixed with sauce, topped with Mozarella and served with Romano or Parm.

Everybody loved it. Made a double helping and didn't have enough leftovers to go around! Used sliced chicken Italian sausages. Also added onions and mushrooms right after the garlic and before the tomatoes. Served with Brussels sprouts and a simple salad of butter lettuce, sweet peas and a white balsamic dressing.

I have made this several times, including for a large group of 25. Always receive rave reviews. Easy, delicious, and a crowd pleaser.

This is really easy and great for a quick weeknight family recipe. I make two batches, one with the cherry peppers for the adults and one w/o for little ones and it's still quick.

We found this dish to be tasty and easy, I especially liked the addition of the hot cherry peppers. In the future I would reduce the time the pasta spent cooking in water and finish cooking it in the sauce so that the pasta absorbed more flavor from the sauce.

This is so easy and tasty. It's one of my favorites ever since I saw it originally in the magazine

Easy and real good. I added more of the hot peppers, as we like food spicy. The spicy peppers added a nice heat and a great vinegar flavor that does not over power at all. Great for a quick weeknight dinner

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