Thursday, December 09, 2021

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole

I'm not exactly sure where the first week of December went, but here we are on the 9th with no posts yet! Everything is fine around here, but all the preparations for the holidays take time. I remember that my Mom used to complain that every year it seemed to take longer to do the things that went faster the previous year. Not just holiday prep, but most things. Grocery shopping takes longer, laundry seems to take longer (although that might be because the washing machine and dryer are over thirty years old and so are the pipes...the cold water in particular seems to dribble into the machine. I suspect the pipes are filled up with minerals so less water gets through). Even cooking and baking seem to take longer, so I guess I haven't started as many baking sessions and only a minimum of cooking.

Anyway, time flies by and it's dinner time. What to make? Well, there are a couple of cooked turkey Italian sausages in the fridge, and it doesn't take long to boil water for pasta, nor to make a simple white sauce, nor to crisp up some bread crumbs in melted margarine. Put all that together and you have a cozy casserole, perfect for a chilly, damp night.

The white sauce recipe comes from a classic cook book; the Joy of Cooking. For the pasta I found a half pound of multi-color twisty pasta. Since this casserole only serves 2-3, you don't need any more pasta than that. I served the casserole with steamed green beans and Sweetie was very happy. Hope you will be too, if you try this recipe out. The pasta and sauce are fairly bland, but the sausage lifts the flavors and the crunch of the topping adds texture so that the whole is delightful.

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole
Serves 2-3 (Double the recipe to serve 4-6)

For the Pasta: 1/2 pound rotini (I used multi-colored, but plain is fine, too)
salt (optional)

For the White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 Italian sausages, cooked, and sliced in 1/4-inch slices

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt if desired. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, make the white sauce: In a medium sauce pan, combine the melted butter and the flour. Cook, over low heat, stirring 3-4 minutes, until well blended and flour has had a chance to cook off the raw taste without browning. Slowly stir in the milk and simmer and stir the sauce with a wire Whisk until it has thickened and is smooth and hot. Whisk in the ricotta cheese until smooth again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to keep a skin from forming.

In a small non-stick skillet, combine the melted butter and the bread crumbs. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until the crumbs are slightly browned and a bit crispy. Don't allow to burn.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish. In the pot that the pasta was cooked in, combine the drained pasta, the white sauce and the slices of Italian sausage. Pour into the prepared casserole dish, use the back of a spoon to level the filling, then evenly top with the prepared bread crumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crumbs become golden brown. Serve at once while still hot.

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