I’ve been stuck in a dinner rut for the past few weeks. I’ve been wanting to make new dishes because I’m tired of the same old dinners that I make every month. But I spend way too much time on Pinterest looking for ideas but nothing really stands out.

Then I realized that I have recipes that I’ve saved in my Pinterest folders and on my computer that I haven’t even considered. Instead of wasting time looking for something new, I forgot to look at the ones I had already pinned.

Silly, I know. But I always get caught up in looking at all the new stuff on Pinterest.

I’ve been wanting to make this pasta dish from Pioneer Woman, and since I was taking a dish to a couple in our church who just had a baby, I thought it was a great time to make it. I know you’re not suppose to try new dishes on guest but I knew that it was going to be good, its pasta, it can’t be bad!

I did make a few adjustments. I like crushed tomatoes, so I used Hunt’s Crushed instead of whole tomatoes like she did. I also didn’t use as much cheese since I didn’t look at the ingredient list very well and didn’t realize that I needed 1 1/2 pounds of mozzarella, yes 1 1/2 pounds of cheese!! Plus more parmesan and ricotta!

That’s a lot of cheese.

I really think it was cheesy enough with what I had, but if you just LOVE cheese, go ahead and put another layer of cheese in-between the layers. I like my pasta saucy and not very cheesy.

Enough talk…. here’s how its done.

Chop the onion and saute it in oil. Mince in the garlic and saute for about 8 minutes or until onion is transparent and very fragrant.

If you’re one of those people who think you don’t like onions, you don’t what you’re missing. After cooking the onions in with the meat and then with the sauce you don’t even see them when you’re eating the dish. They make the dish so much more flavorful. I use to think that onions were just gross, and I would illuminate them in any dish I made. Not any more. Onions can make a dish very flavorful.

Add the sausage and beef. Brown until no longer pink. Pour out some of the grease but not all of it. Pour in the tomatoes and seasoning.  Let it simmer for 20 minutes but no longer, you don’t want it to become paste.

While the sauce is simmering bring a big pot of water to boil and throw in a lot of salt in the water. About 1 – 2 tablespoons.

Always, always, always, salt your pasta water. 

Why salt your water? #1 – it seasons the pasta #2 – it keeps the pasta from sticking together.

Cook pasta about 8 minutes. You don’t want it all the way done because its going to cook more in the oven. Fish a noodle out, let it cool, and test it. If its tender but still have a little bite of firmness to it, that is when you want to drain the pasta and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.

While pasta cooks prepare the cheese and scoop out about 4 cups of sauce to cool. Mix the cheese mixture but don’t over mix, just carefully bring it together. Add  the pasta into the cheese and mix carefully. Next add in the 4 cups of sauce that’s been cooling. In a big casserole dish start with a layer of pasta/cheese mixture, then sauce, pasta/cheese mixture again and top it with the last bit of sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and you’re ready to bake.

I really did like this dish. It looks like a lot of steps but it’s super super easy to make. If you want to see a step by step you can visit Pioneer Woman Cooks. It’s almost the same but I did make a few changes.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!!

 

Baked Penne Pasta

Serves: 8                        Prep time: 20 minutes                         Cook time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

3 – 4 cloves Garlic, Minced

1 whole Large Onion, Diced

1 pound Italian Sausage

1 pound Ground Beef

2 can (28 Ounce Can) Crushed Tomatoes

2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning

1 teaspoon dried basil or ½ cup fresh basil torn

Salt And Pepper, to taste

16 ounces, weight Penne, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente

1 tub (15 Ounce) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese, extra for topping

1 cup shredded Italian Five Cheese

1 whole Egg

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

Add crushed tomatoes, , salt (about ½ tsp), pepper (about ¼ tsp), Italian seasoning, and basil. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, shredded cheeses, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

When pasta is almost Al Dente, but not quite done. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and then top with mozzarella.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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