For all of the obvious reasons Mondays are pretty awful. The "Monday Dreads" typically weasel their way in Sunday afternoon bringing with it the anticipation of a shitty night of sleep, a regretfully early alarm, approximately 30 minutes of desperate snoozing, and a painfully long commute (even when it takes 15-minutes). My remedy, or maybe more like a dread-reducer, is planning a wonderful, sometimes decadent, Monday dinner. A little reward for getting through the day. A special meal preparing for the four days ahead. Without fail, I prefer this meal to be pasta-based. That's right, #MondaysAreForPasta
Today, I share with you a Baked Winter Penne that celebrates strong earthy flavors that are complemented by a bright and tangy cream sauce with just a hint of heat. This recipe takes about 45 minutes to prepare--enough time for some post-work cooking therapy but not so laborious you'll want to go straight to bed after eating--serves 4-6 and works really well as leftovers.
If you're fortunate enough to be a consumer of gluten, proceed to the recipe. For my fellow Celiacs and gluten intolerants, here are a few thoughts on selecting the right pasta brand:
The options for dry gluten free pasta have grown exponentially over the past year. While large brands like Barilla, Target's Simply Balanced, and Ronzoni are now in the GF game I prefer to stick to the tried and trues like Ancient Harvest, BioNature, DeBoles or Jovial. Ancient Grains is hands down my go-to. Many years of trial and error have brought me to this conclusion. Taste, texture and how it cooks are crucial considerations for gluten free pasta and Ancient Harvest varieties stand up on all fronts. I attribute this to the unique quinoa, corn blend. Check out this Bon Appetit guide to gluten free pasta for good starting point to testing your own personal preferences.
Baked Winter Penne
Adapted recipe from Savuer
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon crushed red chili flakes
1 pound sausage, casing removed (I used Applegate Organics Fire Roasted Red Pepper Sausage)
1-2 bunches of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup of Parmesan (save about 2 tablespoons for drizzling over dish before baking)
2 cups half and half
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1-2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 pound dried (gluten free) penne pasta
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish
1. Heat 1/4 cup oil in 6 qt saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, red chile flakes and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
2. Add sausage, cook about 15 minutes, breaking apart into small pieces and mixing well into garlic and onion blend.
3. As sausage is cooking, place tomatoes on small baking sheet, drizzle with 1/4 cup of oil, season with salt and pepper, and broil on high for 10 minutes, or until skins are slightly charred.
4. Add kale, season with salt and pepper, cooking until wilted.
5. Add half and half, bring to simmer and stir occasionally until reduced by a third, 7 minutes or so.
6. Stir in Parmesan slowly, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Once cheese is melted, lower heat to keep warm.
7. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente.
8. Drain pasta then add to to reserved sauce.
9. Place pasta and sauce into shallow baking dish. Add roasted tomatoes, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and broil in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until a light, golden brown crust forms on top layer. Serve immediately if you like more sauce-y pasta. Let sit for 10 minutes if you prefer the sauce to set.