Baked Penne alla Vodka with sausage and ricotta with an amazing sauce is going to be your new best friend. It starts out on the stove and ends up in the oven. A great make ahead casserole to enjoy at home or take to a friend.
While I enjoy lasagna, it normally has too much red sauce for me. After trying a vodka sauce at an Italian restaurant in DC, I really wanted to experiment with a vodka sauce. This recipe is one of my new favorites. After making it the first time, I have gone back to this recipe time and time again. I took it to a friend who was under the weather, and made it again over Spring Break when Natalie was home. I made a double batch so she could take some home and have dinner with her friends back at school. It’s really easy to double this recipe.
Everyone just raves about this dish, and I have to admit, I love the combination of flavors and have had it for lunch several times over the past couple of months.
It’s a bit like lasagna but a lot easier and the vodka sauce puts this over the top. Lasagna can sometimes have too much red sauce for me. With Penna alla Vodka the sauce has a bit of cream, which cuts down on the overpowering red sauce that you see in some Italian dishes, and it adds the most unique flavor. Of course I used Tiny Cat Vodka from our local distillery. If you’re in the area, you have to check out Fainting Goat Spirits. The tour is super fun and everyone loves Bill and Andrew.
To make this amazing casserole, you start out by cooking the Italian sausage then add onions and seasoning and finally the vodka along with some crushed tomatoes. The cream comes in at the end. You’ll cook the pasta and combine it with ricotta and some cheese and add it to the vodka sauce. This has to simmer for about 40 minutes but it’s hands off after about 20 minutes of prep time. Finally it all goes in a casserole dish and is baked with some mozzarella until it’s bubbly and delicious.
I found the original recipe in one of Food & Wine Best of the Best. These books contain recipes from 25 cookbooks that they have compiled into a book. This way you get to sample recipes some recipes to help you decide whether to buy the individual cookbooks. This recipe was from Emeril’s Potluck. I found several recipes in this compilation that were real keepers. What a great way to check out some cookbooks. You can grab the older versions for less than $10.00 on Amazon.
This is a great dish to take make ahead. Just assemble it and put it in the freezer. Then if you need to take dinner to a friend or maybe a new mom, you’re all set.
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Baked Pasta alla Vodka
Baked Penne alla Vodka with sausage and ricotta with an amazing sauce is going to be your new best friend. It starts out on the stove and ends up in the oven.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 90 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Yield: 8–10 1x
- Category: entree
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage
- 4 cups onions, thinly sliced, about 2–3 onions
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup vodka
- 2 16 ounce cans canned whole tomatoes, crushed with their juice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ cup cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1.Preheat oven to 350º.
2.Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven or deep skillet over high heat. Remove casing from sausages and add to pan breaking apart as they cook. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions and 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook an additional 4 minutes until onions have softened. Add basil and garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add vodka and tomatoes and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. Add thyme, cayenne and heavy cream, stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes.
3.While cooking, cook pasta with olive oil and salt until al dente. Drain.
4.In a large bowl combine half of the ricotta cheese and half of the parmesan and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the sausage mixture and mix well. Add the remaining ricotta and parmesan and mix well. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes.