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Baked Penne with Sausage and Creamy Ricotta

This hearty pasta dish is studded with chunks of Italian sausage and mixed with a quick garlic-infused tomato sauce. It's then topped with dollops of fresh ricotta and a sprinkling of both mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, which form a cheesy layer as the pasta bakes.

Prep Time

    •    Prep time: 1 hour
    •    Cook time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
    •    Yield: Serves 8


    •    1 bay leaf
    •    1 pound penne
    •    1 1/2 tsps sugar
    •    1 1/2 cups water
    •    1/4 tsp ground fennel
    •    3 cups creamy ricotta
    •    2 garlic cloves, smashed
    •    3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
    •    salt and freshly ground pepper
    •    one 28 ounce can tomato puree
    •    1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
    •    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    •    1 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove the garlic, mash it to a paste and stir it back into the sauce; discard the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sausage to the pasta, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and toss to coat the penne.
  3. Spoon the pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the Creamy Ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don't overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

This great family recipe is thanks to FOOD & WINE at


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