One of the things I used to order whenever I went to any Italian restaurant was Baked Ziti. A simple dish, yet always delicious, and always the same no matter where you went. Those were my younger years. Now I love to order dishes like Chicken Piccata, Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage, and Calamari Fra Diavlo, but that does not stop me from still craving the more simple dishes. And a craving was what I had...but I did not have any ground beef or ziti in the house, so it was time to improvise! I still had 1/2 pound of the chorizo left over from my Chorizo and Rice Casserole....and I always have penne on hand....so why not make a baked penne...????? With chorizo!! And that's exactly what I did. It turned out to be just what I wanted. I did worry that the chorizo and the pasta sauce would not blend well together, but I was worried for nothing...the flavors of the Mexican spices in the chorizo actually complimented the pasta sauce really well. I added the red pepper because it's what I had in the fridge. You can leave it out.. or better yet, caramelize some onions and add that to the dish too...it would be fantastic! Whatever you do, just try it...you too will quickly become a fan!
Baked Penne with Chorizo
2 cups whole grain penne (I actually used just a bit over 2 cups)
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
1 red pepper, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 - 1 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
mozzarella cheese (I used just under 1/2 cup, but you might want to use more)
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a medium skillet, over medium heat, cook the chorizo about 3 minutes; breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the red pepper and cook another 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the sauce (I used just under 1 cup of sauce), stirring to combine. Stir in the cream cheese until it's fully incorporated. Season with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the pasta and toss to coat.
Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly. Serve with warm crusty bread. Enjoy!
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