Baked Penne with Sausage, Fennel and Basil


This had been one of my family dinner favorites for some years, but when I replaced the store bought ricotta with Maria Helm Sinskey's Creamy Ricotta recipe (page 126 of Food & Wine November 2008 issue), it raised the rating from delicious to divine. The fresh and fluffy ricotta, together with the fresh herbs, perfectly balances the hearty sausage and tomato sauce.
Course Main
Cuisine Italian


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 pound spicy and or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 28- ounce cans of plum tomatoes blended in food processor or blender
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound mozzerella cut into small cubes, plus about 1/2 cup shredded for topping
  • 3 cups Homemade Creamy Ricotta or store bought ricotta recommended!
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 1 pound penne


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Saute sausage and smashed garlic in olive oil, breaking up sausage as it browns.
  3. Add tomatoes, fennel, basil, salt and pepper and simmer about 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, boil water and cook the penne until al dente, and drain but do not rinse, saving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Pour the pasta water into the tomato sauce and stir in. {This will help the sauce cling to the pasta.)
  5. In large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzerella, parmesan, fresh basil and fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Combine penne, sauce and cheese mixture.
  7. Spoon into glass casserole or ceramic pie pans. Sprinkle extra mozzerella and paremesan on top.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, turning up to broil for last few minutes until top is golden and bubbly.