Penne au Gratin is the best baked penne recipe! Spicy Italian sausage is pan seared with peppers, mushrooms, and baked in alla vodka sauce with loads of cheese and penne pasta. This is a fabulous meal to feed a large hungry family!
Baked penne pasta
What can I say? I’m straight up obsessed with baked penne pasta. There is no better taste in this world than a warm bowl of carb-loaded pasta with a homemade tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese layered on top!
This baked penne is loaded with al dente penne pasta, sauce, Italian sausage, veggies, and ooey gooey cheese. It’s an easy dish to throw together and can feed a whole Army! There will be plenty of leftovers for everyone to enjoy!
Baked penne pasta is super customizable, which is why it’s great for any family? Don’t like mushrooms, cool, don’t add them! Love diced bell peppers, go ahead and add them! You just can’t go wrong with baked penne!
Baked penne key ingredients
- Italian sausage- You have some choices here- sweet Italian sausage or hot Italian sausage. Both types of sausages are delicious, the sweet one will elevate the sweetness of the vodka sauce, and the spicy sausage will add a more diverse flavor.
- Vodka sauce- You can buy store-bought (I recommend Gia Russa vodka sauce) but homemade vodka sauce is super simple and insanely delicious.
- Penne pasta- Always buy a good quality brand of pasta because it needs to be able to hold up to boiling, then baking without getting mushy. My favorite brand is Dececco pasta because it always has the perfect al dente bite and does not get mushy after baking it.
- Cheese- This baked penne is loaded with three kinds of cheese! Mozzarella adds that perfect melty, gooey cheesiness, parmesan cheese gives this dish that balanced saltiness, and ricotta cheese adds a creamy richness. Pure perfection!
- Vegetables- I like to hide vegetables in a lot of my dishes, so it’s not a surprise I snuck in mushrooms, onions, garlic, and bell pepper for added flavor and color!
What kind of sausage to use for baked penne?
Link sausage is the best to use for this recipe. Cook the sausage in the pan as a whole link first, then cut them into thin slices. If you want a deeper flavor, seer the sausage slices in the pan, crisping the sides of it. This will introduce a smokier taste to the pasta, although it is not necessary.
What kind of sauce to use?
For this penne au gratin recipe, I used alla vodka sauce. Vodka sauce is a creamier tomato sauce aromatic and super flavorful. You can use whatever red sauce you have on hand like marinara, red wine sauce, or even a fresh tomato sauce!
How to freeze baked penne pasta
You can absolutely freeze this baked penne! Make sure you buy a good quality pasta that can withstand the boiling, freezing, and baking because a cheap pasta will get mushy. Follow the recipe up until you bake it. Instead of baking it, place the baked penne pasta in a freezer safe dish, cover it, then freeze it. When you are ready to eat it, place the baked penne in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until it is heated through.
How to reheat baked penne
You absolutely can reheat and enjoy this delicious dinner! Pasta sauce tends to absorb into the noodle after being refrigerated overnight. Add about 2 TBS of water to your bowl of pasta, and reheat in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or if you prefer the oven, reheat at 350°F for ten minutes.
How to make baked penne?
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Place the sausage in the pan and cook for 10 minutes, making sure to turn it frequently. Remove the sausage from the pan and slice it into 1/2 inch sized pieces. Add the sausage back to the pan and cook for about 10 more minutes, until both sides are lightly crisped.
- Add the onion, mushroom, and bell pepper to the pan and sautè for 3 minutes. Next, add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, then remove the pan from the stove.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a roaring boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and set it to the side.
- Combine the pasta, pasta sauce, and sausage and vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add half of the pasta mixture to a large oven safe dish. Top the pasta with dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add the rest of the pasta mixture on top.
- Top the pasta again with ricotta dollops, then add mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Cover with tin foil, and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Pull out of the oven, serve. Mangia!
What to serve with baked penne
- Lemon garlic broccolini
- Proscuitto wrapped green bean bundles
- Five minute oven roasted aspragus
- Rosemary garlic dinner rolls
- Crusty French bread rolls
Penne Au Gratin
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb link Italian sausage
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- 1 bell pepper dices
- 1 white onion finely chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 24 oz jar of Alla Vodka sauce
- 1 16 oz box of penne pasta
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place a large pan over medium heat, then add the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook for 10 minutes, turning frequently. Remove the sausage from the pan, slice it into 1/2 inch sized pieces, then add it back to the pan. Cook the sausage for another 10 minutes until it is lightly crisped on both sides.
- Add the onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper to the pan and sautè for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sautè for 2 more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a roaring boil. Cook the penne pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and set it to the side.
- Combine the pasta, sausage and vegetable mixture, and vodka sauce in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
- In a large, oven safe dish, add half of the pasta mixture. Place dollops of ricotta cheese throughout the pan. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese, then layer again with pasta. Drop little dollops of ricotta on the top layer.
- Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top layer, and cover with tin foil. Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve. Mangia!
Nutrition values are estimates, for exact values consult a nutritionist.
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