My husband does cook, although not nearly as often as I do. He is a very different cook than I am. He maintains a small repertoire of dishes that he makes over and over again, improving each time, and I have hardly ever seen him consult a recipe. Rather, he cooks solely by memory and taste. When he takes to the kitchen, I can expect him to be in there the whole afternoon; he takes his time. The results are always worth it!
One of my husband’s mainstay dishes is an Italian red sauce. I am always glad to see him make this, because he makes a huge pot of it, most of which I can freeze and use not only as a pasta sauce but in any Italian recipe that calls for a tomato sauce. I couldn’t share the recipe even if I wanted to, because I have no idea what it is and I’m not even sure my husband does either, not consciously. I do know that the key ingredient is Bionaturae organic bottled, not canned, tomato puree, which we can only find in our local co-op (they also make a terrific bottled tomato paste, which is very handy to have because it can be resealed and stored in the refrigerator).
When my husband makes sauce, he likes to do a little something different with it each time. Sometimes he’ll use it for a chicken Parmesan, others for a hearty ragout with sausage, or whatever he feels like. This time, he was inspired to make a cheesy pasta bake with Italian sausage. Again, he didn’t follow a recipe, just his instincts.
It was every bit as good as it looks. If you want to try to re-create it, here is the process for assembly.
Cheesy Pasta Bake
Yields: 2-4 servings
What you need:
- 2 Italian sausages (we used chicken sausage)
- 2-3 cups of thick Italian-style tomato sauce (since I can’t share my husband’s recipe, try this marinara sauce instead, or use your own favorite recipe)
- ½ lb. penne pasta
- 4 oz. mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Slice the sausages and bring to a simmer in the tomato sauce.
- Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until just about done.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a baking dish.
- Top with the pasta.
- Spoon over the remaining sauce and sausages.
- Top with a layer of the mozzarella slices.
- Bake 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned.
Notes: All measurements are approximate and based on memory — use your best judgment, and double as appropriate. Leftovers keep very well for reheating later, so feel free to make a lot.