We absolutely adored the Pasta and Chicken with Italian Cream I made just a while ago. Loved it so much I thought about making a variation of the dish. With a few changes to the recipe, this too came out fabulous!
Incorporating a sweet Italian sausage and roasted red pepper to the recipe added to the overall profile of the dish. Beyond the fact that this is delicious, it is family-friendly and very budget-friendly. From start to finish the whole meal takes about an hour, give or take a few minutes.
The meat department of our local store makes some great tasting sausage right in house so I decided for the remake I would use sweet Italian sausage. You could well replace it with hot if that is your preference. The one thing you want to do is precook the sausage and get it nice and brown, cooking it about two-thirds or a little more than that right up front.
Also we broke down the three pound package of sausage which at $8.97 gives us three meals. Six got used in this meal and we have two packages with 5 each wrapped and in the freezer. Now I left the sausage whole but after browning you can elect to slice it into bite sized pieces.
This recipe has a rather lengthy list of ingredients but don't get intimidated by it as they are all common ingredients and you may have a good portion of these in your pantry and spice cabinet already. You could roast your own red bell pepper or use a jar variety. I purchase a jar of them where the peppers are whole roasted from the job lot store.
- 6 sweet Italian sausage links
- 1/2 box ziti pasta (or penne)
- 2 cups reserved pasta water
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 2 cups whole tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 large garlic cloves - minced
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 large roasted red bell pepper - medium dice
- 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Begin by browning your sausages in a deep skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Turn them as you go and cook about two thirds of the way or a little beyond that. Set the sausages aside.
- Cook your pasta according to box directions and RESERVE 2 cups of the pasta water. Don't forget to salt your pasta when you cook it. Drain and set aside. Do not rinse the pasta. You can break it down later if it clumps and the heat of the sauce by stirring will help that along.
- In the same pan as you browned the sausage and with all the remaining fat, set the heat to medium low and add in the butter. Saute the garlic until you smell the fragrance but be careful not to burn it.
- Next, add in the reserved pasta water, kick the heat up to medium and stir and scrap all the good bits from browning the sausage.
- Add in the tomato paste and whisk until incorporated. Then add in the ricotta cheese and whisk that in until it's blended.
- Add in your spices, the tomatoes and the diced roasted pepper. Break the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon.
- Then add the sausage back to the pan along with the half and half. Stir.
- Cook covered for 3-4 minutes.
- Uncover and add in the pasta and mix well. Cook covered for about 18-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sausage is completely cooked.
- At the end add in the mozzarella cheese, stirring over a simmer until melted into the dish. If the dish is too thick add the 1/2 cup more of half and half and mix well.
As I mentioned earlier, above and beyond the fact that this dish has superb flavors it is indeed very economical. Using only a portion of the sausage we purchased, this recipe came out to $7.51 total cost. It serves 4-6 portions for either $1.87 for four (and those are huge portions) or six portions at a cost of $1.25 per person.