CLASSIC pasta baked penne with meat and mushrooms








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Another simple but flavorful dish that is easy to make ahead. It combines the usual comfort basics into a beautiful casserole dish. This recipe is adapted from Lynne Bennett of the Chronicle, who pairs it with excellent California Zinfandels. This baked dish does not need bechamel.

for the sauce:

  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • one-half pound sweet Italian sausage
  • one-half pound lean ground beef
  • one cup onion, diced
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • one-half pound mushrooms, cremini preferred, sliced
  • one-quarter cup Marsala
  • one 28-ounce can imported Italian peeled plum tomatoes
  • one teaspoon oregano
  • one teaspoon marjoram
  • 'one teaspoon oregano
  • one-half cup fresh parmesan, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • two tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • one cup grated Gruyere

for the pasta:

  • one pound penne

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Remove the sausage from casing and roughly chop. If beef is tightly wound, roughly chop it also. Put one tablespoon olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the chopped meat and brown it. While browning constantly jam the meat with a wooden spoon to continually break it into small pieces. Meat should just be browned, not too dark When the meat is done, remove and set aside.

Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic. Thirty seconds later add the onion. Cook for four minutes or so, until the onions are soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for another three or four minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper and stir.

Add the meat back to the pan, turn the heat to high and add the Marsala.   Cook off the alcohol, one minute. Add the tomatoes and the herbs. Stir. Get to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue the simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally to get a good mix.

Get four to five quarts of water boiling vigorously. Add two teaspoons of salt. Put in the pasta and cook short of al dente. Drain the pasta.

Mix the pasta with the sauce. Add the parmesan and parsley. Stir. taste for salt.  

Put the pasta and sauce evenly in a 9 inch by 13 inch slightly buttered baking dish. Top with the grated gruyere. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until the pasta is hot and the cheese melted.  As a test, as in all baked pastas, the edges should be bubbling a little.

Serve, with a little extra parsley on top for color.


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