Last Monday was a drizzly day. The overcast sky and the crisp air meant a dinner that was warm, comforting, and (given my current cravings) cheesy. I had just gotten home from lunch with Nikita when we decided to flip through old Gourmet magazines for dinner inspiration (oh Gourmet, how we will miss you when you are gone!!! ) Nikita came across this recipe. It fit my criteria so off to the store I went to grab Italian sausage, mushrooms, cream, and fresh mozzarella. Dustin liked it and said it reminded him of stroganoff, one of his favorite meals. I loved how it tastes like it’s been baking for an hour, when really most of it is done on the stove top and it’s finished off under the broiler – all under 30 minutes. We ate our penne gratin with a salad of baby spinach, apples, and hazelnuts (a lovely fall combo I first had at my parents’ house the night before, but I loved it so much I recreated it). The recipe below serves 4-6. We halved it and still had enough leftovers for Dustin to take it for lunch two days in a row (lucky him). Try this recipe sometime this fall when you’re in need of something comforting and cheesy. And enjoy it with a glass of red wine for me, will you?
Sausage & Mushroom Penne Gratin
(From the November 2008 issue of Gourmet)
1 pound dried penne
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella, divided
- Cook penne in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta and transfer to a flameproof 3-quart baking dish.
- Preheat broiler.
- Meanwhile, cook sausage in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces, until no longer pink. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving fat in skillet.
- Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet along with mushrooms and garlic, then cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden, about 3 minutes.
- Return sausage to skillet along with cream, reserved 1/2 cup cooking water, a rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and boil over high heat, stirring once or twice, until thickened, about 4 minutes.
- Pour over pasta, then stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and salt to taste. Spread evenly in baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella.
- Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden brown in spots, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so you don’t burn your cheese!
- Serve with my new favorite salad: combine baby spinach leaves (or mixed greens) with a sliced apple, and a couple handfuls of roasted hazelnuts. Toss with a dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. I also added a little agave syrup for sweetness.