BACK TO MY ITALIAN ROOTS.

Surprise! I’m 100% Italian. Can’t you tell that just by looking at my picture?

Out of all the things that I usually cook, I always seem to be drawn back to Italian food. It is probably tied to one of my cooking philosophies that you can take simple ingredients and combine them to make something delicious. Most of the Italian dishes that I have made in the past do not require a ton of ingredients or fancy spices, usually just consisting of sauce, pasta, cheese, meat, and vegetables. The best thing about this is that many of these ingredients can be commonly found right at the supermarket.

This past Friday was no exception, when we decided to try to change things up a bit and opt in for a spaghetti pasta bake instead of making traditional spaghetti.

Italian sausages paired with sautéed peppers and onions immersed in marinara sauce made for a great base for the pasta bake. Even though I overestimated on some of the vegetable portions, it still turned out great and was a hearty dish when everything was put together.

This marks the second time I’ve been using a new method to cook Italian sausages, and I have quickly become an advocate of using only this method.

  • Brown the sausages on all sides in a medium skillet on medium to medium-high heat (usually takes about 8 – 10 minutes).
  • Pour above 1/4 cup of water into the pan and then cover it real quick. This will trap all of the steam inside the pan and make sure the sausages are cooked all the way through. Leave the cover on for 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Take the cover off and you have yourself some nice, moist Italian sausages. I think that this technique would also apply to making brats too, but I haven’t gotten a chance to test that out yet.

The first time that I tried cooking sausages on the stove was during junior year of college, when my roommate and I had blackened the outsides so quickly and the middle was still practically raw. After that epic fail, I’m pretty sure that we just decided to go out to eat instead.

Here is the full pasta bake sitting inside the casserole dish, in all of its glory:

Another trick that I learned is that when layering things for baking in a casserole dish, if you have a wet component to the dish (in this case, the sauce mixture), put a layer of that on the bottom first so that you can avoid having things stuck to the bottom of the pan (which also makes for better cleanup, too).

A pasta bake is inherently versatile in your ability to substitute almost all of the components for this dish, from the kind of pasta to the type of cheese to the sauce mixture. With such a large number of combinations, it’s always fun to let your culinary imagination run wild.

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