This baked penne recipe is our favorite cozy comfort food. I add pumpkin to the tomato sauce for a silky-smooth sauce and replace the mozzarella with a creamy parmesan fondue.
Are you tired of the same old pasta dish? This recipe takes the boring midweek pasta to the next level with a few restaurant worthy additions. Of course, I have heard of adding pumpkin to tomato sauce, but I have never gone there. This year, with an outstanding pumpkin harvest, I decided to give it a try. I have one word, Wow!
Adding pumpkin puree to pasta dishes is very similar to stirring in that luscious heavy cream. It makes the sauce delightfully creamy, comforting, and a joy to fork up. Unlike heavy cream, however, pumpkin gives the pasta sauce that same rich texture without the heavy calories, and it’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients. The pumpkin puree is bland enough it just slide in unimposing and live quietly with the other ingredients.
The second game changer in this recipe is the parmesan fondue. This warm, mild, creamy fondue is an elegant, yet simple, replacement to shredded cheese and adds an element all its own. I have tried it mixed in the pasta and layered like a lasagna but dividing the pasta and giving it its own baking spot along side the pasta allows everyone to spoon as much, or as little, of the cheese sauce over the pasta as they like. In my experience it is often more not less. It is that good. Mix it up adding different cheese or seasonings. It goes well with Asiago, Romano, or a smoked gouda. My son likes to add a touch of cayenne pepper olive oil while my husband likes a creole seasoning. I’m a purist, I stick with Italian flavors. There’s no right or wrong. Put your own personal twist on the fondue.
Baked Penne with Sausage and Pumpkin Tomato Sauce
- 12 ounces dried penne pasta
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine, like chardonnay
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree
- 14.5 ounces fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. When water comes to a boil add some salt and stir in the pasta. Let cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion; cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
- Add the sausage and cook, crumbling and breaking it up until no longer pink.
- Add the wine to the skillet. Cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, tomatoes, broth, cream, salt, and ancho chile pepper. Bring to a low boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the sauce into the pasta in pot. Transfer to an oven-proof casserole dish. Set aside.
- Make the parmesan fondue. Place the cream cheese in a heat resistant bowl and set over simmering water. As cheese melts, gradually stir in the cream. Cook and stir until mixture forms a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add parmesan cheese and cook and stir until smooth and thickened.
- Part the pasta in two places making a bit of a swirl. Fill each swirl with half of the parmesan fondue. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.