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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sausage and veggie pasta casserole

The way my mom cooks is... interesting.  She pretty much makes up recipes off the top of her head.  She rarely follows a written recipe, and when she does it's more to know what is in the recipe rather than how much.  She measures spices by sight, smell, feel, or taste.  She rarely salts anything as she cooks.  On multiple occasions I have seen her make a box of brownie mix and not measure water or oil.  (I've also seen that fail as many times as it works.)

Last night I watched her make dinner, an exceptionally tasty dinner.  It had some of my favorite ingredients in it: Italian sausage, pasta, potatoes, cheese.

I think this would be really nice with some spinach or mushrooms added.  You could probably add corn and carrots too.  Since broccoli is my favorite vegetable I might put some broccoli in it.  It's an easy dish to just sneak in lots of veggies for picky kids.

This recipe fed 3 people with a little leftover.  You could easily add more pasta or vegetables to stretch it farther.

As I said, this was a recipe she thought up on the spot so measurements aren't going to be exact on this.  I just wanted to get it up here so we could share its deliciousness.

Sausage and Veggie Pasta Casserole

1 lb Italian sausage
3-5 small to medium size red potatoes, quartered
8 oz penne pasta
1 zucchini, chopped
1 squash, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with green chillies
2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
vegetable oil or olive oil
vegetable oil spray
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with vegetable oil spray.

Start by boiling some water and chopping up the potatoes.  Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes and blanch them for 3-4 minutes just to start them cooking.  Drain the potatoes and set them aside.  Using the same pot bring more water to boil for the pasta.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Begin browning the sausage in a medium size skillet over medium heat.  Mom uses the ground sausage not the links but I think the links would be fine if you cut them up a bit before cooking them.  Don't break up the meat too much while you're browning it, the large chunks make it very rustic.

Once the sausage is cooked through, grab another skillet and heat it on medium with just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  (My mom used her cast iron skillet but you can use any skillet that is oven-safe.)  Put some flour in a large ziploc bag and season it with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Add the potatoes to the bag and shake to coat the potatoes with the flour.  When the oil in the skillet is hot, add the potatoes and cook until they are browned and crispy on the outsides.  (Don't worry about cooking them through because they will be baking in the oven anyway.)  Add the sausage to the potatoes and mix together.  Remove from heat.

In the pan with the sausage drippings over medium heat cook the squash and zucchini.  When the vegetables become soft add the pasta and the diced tomatoes.  Remove from heat.

Mix the potato mixture into the pasta mixture and add the parmesan cheese.  Pour the entire mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake at 375 degrees until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle the Monterrey jack cheese over the top and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  (I like my cheese pretty bubbly and brown so I would do mine for 10.)  Serve while still hot.

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