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Baked Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage Meatballs

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Baked Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage Meatballs
This image courtesy of Patricia Mendez

If you think pasta and cheese are the perfect union, then you'll love this recipe for Baked Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage Meatballs. As far as baked penne recipes go, this one is top notch. Strapped for time? Prepare beforehand and bake before serving.

Serves: 8 people

Ingredients
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 8 cups marinara sauce (see note section for link to recipe, or use store-bought)
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • Italian Sausage Meatballs:
  • 20 ounces Italian seasoned ground turkey meat (see notes for alternative turkey option)
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make the marinara sauce, set aside.

  2. Boil 4 quarts of water in large pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. When boiling, add penne pasta, stir well, and cook over medium heat according to package directions. Drain in colander. Do not overcook.
     
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, half of the Parmesan, parsley, egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Spray large casserole or baking dish with cooking spray. Mix cheese mixture with penne pasta and spoon into baking dish.

  4. Add cooked meatballs and pour half of marinara sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and bake 25 minutes.
     
  5. Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes if refrigerated. Uncover and bake for 5-7 minutes more. Warm remaining marinara in small pitcher or bowl in microwave, and serve warm with pasta for guests who like extra sauce.

Italian Sausage Meatballs:

  1. Mix Italian turkey meat with egg white and bread crumbs. It is easier if you mix with your hand.

  2. Roll into 2-inch balls.

  3. Heat olive oil in large frying pan and cook meatballs over medium heat, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Notes
  • For the freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano imported from Italy is preferred.

  • Click here to view the Homemade Marinara Sauce recipe.

  • As an alternative to the Italian seasoned ground turkey meat, you could use one package of sweet Italian turkey sausage. If you purchase the sweet Italian turkey sausage, remove the casing that holds the sausage together with a sharp knife and discard. Crumble the meat into the mixing bowl.
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