If you are in Vancouver like I am then you will understand why baked pasta is still on the menu. Aren’t April showers supposed to bring us May flowers? It’s still cool and wet, wet, wet, so something hot from the oven and full of robust flavours like hot sausage and kale are still welcome. Not perfectly seasonal, but what can you do?
In the fall, when the weather starts to get nippy and crisp I like to make a sausage, white bean and kale soup. It’s hot, spicy and really satisfying. I think when I was making this pasta I was thinking of that soup. It has the same character but the creamy pasta takes it to a whole other level.
You’ll notice that there are no spices, herbs or seasonings here. That is due to the fact that the sausage brings so much flavour along with the onion and garlic, that it doesn’t need anything at all. The kale rounds things out with its deep vegetable notes and the peas, well, they remind you that it’s not October. Enjoy this while it’s cool enough to have the oven on, and remember it for when the weather cools again in the fall.
Baked Penne with Sausage and Kale
preheat the oven to 375 degrees
1 lb penne pasta, cooked
1 lb hot sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
2 teaspoons flour
1 1/2 cups of cold milk
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
fresh mozzarella (about 12 of the cocktail sized balls, approximately 1 cup)
Chop the onion and mushrooms. Mince the garlic. Set aside.
Remove the coarse stems from the kale and roughly chop the remaining leaves. If using fresh peas, shell them and set aside with the kale.
Begin by removing the casings from the sausage. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, brown the sausage with the bay leaf and break it up with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes until the sausage, onions and mushrooms are all slightly caramelized and cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Now is the time to boil the water for your pasta and cook it (according to package directions). You may wish to slightly under-cook the pasta as it will be spending some time cooking in the oven as well.
Back to the sausage mix: Sprinkle the flour over the sausage, onion and mushroom mix and stir to combine and coat everything with the flour. Add the milk and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the kale and peas.
Add the cooked pasta and stir until the pasta is well coated. Pour mixture into a 9×13″ casserole. Push the bocconcini into the pasta, distributing it evenly. Bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and the top of the pasta is golden brown.