Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen: Penne Pasticciate (Baked Penne with Radicchio and Sausage)

I've made this recipe before.  Well, not this recipe.  The original recipe.  And it was kinda wah...wah...wah.  Enough that it went in the trash, much to my dismay.  But I knew this "messy penne" could be so much more.  All it needed was...flavor.  How do so many people miss something as simple as flavor?  Meat + radicchio + milk ≠ delicious.  It = boring.  Add some garlic, basil, oregano, and parsley to that puppy, and now we're talking.

Penne Pasticciate (Baked Penne with Radicchio and Sausage)
Adapted from Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen by Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman

8 ounces sweet Italian sausage (about 2), removed from casings and crumbled
8 ounces hot Italian sausage (about 2), removed from casings and crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil (if necessary)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 pound penne rigate
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter an 8x12-inch baking dish.

Heat a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the fat is rendered and the sausage has lost its pink color. If the sausage is pretty lean, add the olive oil to help it along.  When the sausage is cooked through, pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the garlic and radicchio, stir well, and cook, stirring until the radicchio is soft and well blended with the sausage, about 4 minutes. Season with basil, oregano, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, fill a 10-quart stockpot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the sausage. Beat together the milk, cream, eggs, parsley, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread the pasta/sausage mixture evenly in the baking dish, and then pour the cream mixture over. Sprinkle the top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the top looks a bit crunchy and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings

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