A few weeks ago, I was browsing around the internet on my lunch break, wondering what I should make for dinner, and I stumbled across Deb’s recipe for a mushroom marsala pasta bake over on Smitten Kitchen. It sounded delightful! I usually cook with leftovers in mind, since my husband and I both brownbag it, and I’m involved in enough evening activities (choirs, books, binge-watching Netflix) that cooking just doesn’t happen every night. So this kind of recipe, which both makes a hefty amount and reheats well without getting weird in the microwave (my fellow brownbaggers know what I mean) — it’s a godsend.
I didn’t have the ingredients for the recipe itself, so I just used it as inspiration and winged it with what I had in the fridge. I didn’t expect to blog about it, since it was just a workday dinner to put food on the table. But then my husband said a miraculous thing: “this is really good!” I don’t mean to suggest that Jarod doesn’t appreciate the food I make, but overall he’s pretty even-keeled about food and he doesn’t much like cheese. So for him to exclaim about a casserole with cheese in it, unprompted? That’s worth more than many others people’s over-the-top gushing.
And it makes sense. From an eater’s perspective, the flavors are simple but deep, and it’s not a gutbomb like many casseroles: there’s enough cheese to hold it together and add a little oomph, but the main body comes from the flour-thickened stock. The wine gives it just enough acid to lighten it up a bit and keep things interesting. And from a cook’s perspective, it’s a fast prep: only five things to cut up, and the whole thing can be made in one pot. (I boiled the pasta in the same Dutch oven I made the sauce in, and then baked the whole casserole in it.)
I made a second batch the following weekend for photography’s sake, and at one point I think we had more than four quarts of this recipe in the fridge. And yet it was gone in just a few days: high praise, indeed.
Broccoli sausage casserole
Inspired by the mushroom marsala pasta bake at Smitten Kitchen
1 lb. penne
1 head broccoli, crown broken into smallish florets and stem peeled and chopped
3T olive oil
1/2 lb. smoked Polish sausage (or another smoked sausage), sliced into thin coins
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2c dry white wine
3c chicken stock
8 oz mozzarella, cubed
1/4c parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan to serve
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook penne according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Add the broccoli to the pot about five minutes before the pasta is done (it should still be a little firm). Drain pasta and broccoli, and reserve.
In a Dutch oven or other large oven-safe pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and onion, and cook until onion is soft and translucent.
Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has entirely boiled away (the butter and oil mixture will form a sort of glaze over the sausage and onion).
Sprinkle in the flour and stir to cook it briefly in the butter and oil, about 30 seconds. Add the stock slowly, stirring as you go to incorporate the flour mixture. When all stock is incorporated and the mixture is thick and bubbly, remove from heat. Taste and add salt until the sauce is well-seasoned, but not overly salty.
Fold in the reserved penne and broccoli, along with the mozzarella, the parsley, and ground pepper to taste.
Bake uncovered 30-35 minutes, till brown and crispy at the edges. Serve hot, with grated Parmesan if desired.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven or other large oven-safe pot, you can do all the sauce prep work in a large pot. After you fold in the penne, etc., pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and bake as directed.
Vegetarians: I didn’t list this under “Veg*n possible” because I haven’t really tested this, but I see no reason this can’t be made vegetarian. You could just omit the sausage, or you could try cooking down sliced mushrooms (probably a whole pound fresh?) until they start to brown.
Need to avoid alcohol? Instead of the wine, add in a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar and boil it off. Don’t worry: the vinegar will sweeten as it boils off, leaving just that nice hint of acidity.