Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Super Cheesy Baked Penne

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year (all late!) from Wednesdays with Eryka! I'm back for the new year and ready to share more delicious recipes with you. This past holiday season Christmas and New Year's both landed on Wednesday so I have been MIA. So as the holiday season rolled in I noticed countless recipes for turkey, ham and roasts, but since this year I was hosting a small Christmas day dinner I decided to change it up a bit by making one of my favorite things in the whole world... pasta! Why not? Not only is it pretty simple to make, it is a crowd pleaser and it usually makes a lot so you're not worried about under feeding your guests. What makes this pasta slightly different from your everyday pasta with red sauce is the added spice of cinnamon. Yes, you read right, cinnamon! It adds a warmth to the dish and leaves an excellent after taste that, for me personally, makes you want to eat more. It was perfect for the holidays. Now you can take out the cinnamon but you'd be missing out! For those of you who like to plan meal ahead of time, you can make this sauce a few days ahead, whether it's for your own family dinner or a get together, because the longer the sauce sits the more the flavors mingle, become best friends then become best friends with your taste buds. In short, the sauce will taste better the longer it sits. My favorite part is the gooey, melted cheese top layered coming out of the oven; that paired with the hint of cinnamon is a delicious culinary experience. I hope you enjoy this recipe and use it for a future holiday dinner or even for a cold winter night with your family. Enjoy!

Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 lb pancetta, chopped
1/2 lb ground hot Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
2 32-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil, fresh
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
2 lb penne, cooked
2 8-ounce mozzarella bricks, grated

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, bay leaf, and pancetta. Brown all together for about 1 minute. Add all the meats and break apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add the carrot, celery and onion into the meat mixture. Cook together for about 5 minutes then add the red wine. Cook for about 1 minute; add stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and brown sugar.

3. Stir in the cinnamon, parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to medium low and cook for 20-25 minutes (At this point you can either serve it with pasta as indicated in the next step or store the sauce in the refrigerator/freezer until ready to use.)

4. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven safe casserole dish, toss the sauce with the pasta; stir to make sure it is all distributed evenly. Layer the shredded mozzarella cheese all over the top. Place in the oven until cheese is gooey (I also placed it under the broiler for a few minutes with the oven door open to slightly brown the cheese). Enjoy!


  1. Delicious dish Jackie! Great way to start your posts for the new year:) How 're you coping with the cold? We read that even in Florida the weather was freezing cold.

  2. Thank you Little Cooking Tips! In South Florida it was down to 48 degrees F, which for me is pleasant. A welcome change. Central and northern Florida got "freeze" warnings. I enjoy the cold weather, not as cold as it was up north, but I do enjoy it! :-D