I got to judge a mac & cheese cook-off today (a tough job, but somebody’s gotta), and m favorite dish (actually not a contender, since it was made by a chef and my fellow judge) was a gooey, cheesy baked penne made with smoked brisket. It was divine. It’s exactly the sort of baked pasta dish I crave when the nights are long and the days are chilly; although smoked brisket isn’t something easily obtained – or made from scratch – this version made with smoky, spicy chorizo is a perfectly delicious substitute. Use penne or other small pasta shapes, like rotini, shells or even macaroni. It’s also easy to make and freeze, if you like having a meal stashed away for another day. Freeze it before baking, then bake directly from frozen, adding about 15 minutes on to the baking time.
Cheesy Baked Penne with Chorizo
Adapted from AllRecipes
1 12 oz. package dry penne pasta
olive or canola oil, for cooking
1 lb. (2-3 large) fresh chorizo or Italian sausages
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 14 oz. (398 mL) can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz. (398 mL) can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain well.
Meanwhile heat a drizzle of oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Squeeze the sausage from its casing into the pan and cook along with the onion until the onion is soft and the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with cooked pasta, and spread in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbly and golden. Serves 4-6.