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Baked Penne with Sausage, Fennel & Basil

This Baked Penne pasta recipe features chunks of sausage, a quick garlic-infused tomato sauce hinting of fennel, and plenty of gooey cheese – fresh ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan. It’s sure to be a family dinner favorite as is, but if you replace store-bought ricotta with Maria Helm Sinskey’s Creamy Ricotta recipe (Food & Wine, Nov. 2008), it raises the rating from delicious to divine. The fresh and fluffy ricotta, together with the herbs, perfectly balance the hearty sausage and tomato sauce.

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  • 1.Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • 2.Sauté sausage and smashed garlic in olive oil, breaking up sausage as it browns.
  • 3.Add tomatoes, fennel, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer about 30 minutes.
  • 4.In the meantime, boil water and cook the penne until al dente.
  • 5.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.)
  • 6.In large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, fresh basil and fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 7.Combine penne, sauce and cheese mixture.
  • 8.Spoon into 13”x9” glass casserole or ceramic pie pans. Sprinkle extra mozzarella and Parmesan on top.
  • 9.Bake for 20 minutes, turning up to broil for last few minutes until top is golden and bubbly.
  • 10.Let sit 5-10 minutes. Serve.


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 pound spicy and/or sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 teaspoons dried organic basil
  • 1 teaspoon organic fennel seed
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 28-ounce cans of plum tomatoes, blended in food processor
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cut into small cubes, plus 1/2 cup shredded for topping
  • 3 cups ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 1 pound penne pasta