Baked Penne with Sausage

If you take anything away from this blog post, let it be this:  I am not dying, and lightning-fast baked pasta restores sanity.

It's been Drama City this week, and I'm the mayor.  How fun for my husband, right?

It doesn't happen often, but this is one of those weeks where I'm convinced I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Yes, according to a most-trusted source for self-diagnosis (WebMD) I may have a touch of SAD.  Or a brain tumor.  But let's assume the former.

Do you know what I mean, though?  It's one of those weeks where things just feel heavy, but I tend to think that I'm not alone.  A few years back a British psychologist developed an algorithm that officially determined this week to be the most depressing and stressful one of the year.

Fifty-two weeks in a year, and this is it.  Phew.  It's not a tumor.

I'm not sure what factors have gone into this gloomy algorithm, or whether or not there's any merit to it, but I get it.  The Christmas holiday is over, there's not nearly enough sunshine or warmth right now for my liking, and projects and deadlines for the new year are in full swing.

So what can we do about this?  For me, when things seem to feel a little out of control, I look for opportunities to manage what I can control.  It makes me feel better.  I like to be in control. 

And I can control dinner.  Hooray!

So here's a few rays of sunshine to brighten my (and maybe your?) otherwise dreary week:  This recipe is healthy baked ziti with sausage.  This recipe literally took me 20 minutes to put together, not counting time spent in the oven.  This recipe is cheesy, satisfying, and belly-comforting.  This recipe cures SAD.  (Whoever said it's not healthy to eat your feelings is mistaken as far as I'm concerned.)

If baked penne with sausage isn't a bone thrown your way this week then I don't know what is.  Take advantage for now, and hang in there.  The most depressing and stressful week of the year is almost history!

Baked Penne with Sausage
Adapted from Taste of Home
Yields 8 servings

1 lb uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
3-4 links turkey sausage, casings removed
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs dried oregano
1 c fat free beef broth, divided
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 c shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions until JUST al dente.  It will finish cooking in the oven, and you don't want it to overcook!  Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until no longer pink, stirring to crumble, about 6 minutes.  Drain, remove to a plate, and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the oil, and cook the onion until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and oregano, and cook an additional minute.

Stir in 1/2 cup of beef broth.  Bring to a boil, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in the cooked sausage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and remaining 1/2 c beef broth.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat, and add in the pasta and cheese, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce and to melt the cheese.

Pour the mixture into a 13-in x 9-in baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Uncover, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes longer, or until bubbly.  Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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