Craving the best of both worlds? Look no further than the Pizza Pasta Casserole—a delightful fusion that brings together the comforting flavors of pizza and the heartiness of pasta. This family-friendly dish is not only easy to make but is also a surefire way to satisfy both pasta and pizza enthusiasts at the same time. Get ready for a mouthwatering journey that combines the best elements of two beloved classics.
1 pound penne pasta
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup sliced pepperoni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)
Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). This ensures a perfectly baked casserole with gooey melted cheese and flavorful toppings.
Cook the Pasta: Cook the penne pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Brown the Sausage: In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground Italian sausage, breaking it into crumbles. Once browned, remove excess fat and set aside.
Sauté Aromatics: In the same skillet, sauté the finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and diced bell pepper until softened and fragrant.
Combine Sauce Components: Add the tomato sauce, drained diced tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine, allowing the flavors to meld.
Layering Magic: In a large baking dish, layer half of the cooked penne pasta. Top with half of the sausage, half of the sauce mixture, half of the mozzarella cheese, and half of the sliced pepperoni. Repeat the layers for a symphony of flavors and textures.
Final Cheese Touch: Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the top layer, ensuring an extra layer of cheesy goodness.
Bake to Perfection: Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
Garnish and Serve: Once out of the oven, let the Pizza Pasta Casserole rest for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired. Serve hot, and watch as your family dives into a plateful of comfort.
Customize Toppings: Feel free to customize the toppings based on your pizza preferences. Add mushrooms, black olives, or any other favorite pizza toppings to make it your own.
Make-Ahead Convenience: Prepare the casserole in advance, cover it tightly, and refrigerate. Pop it in the oven when ready to bake, making it a perfect dish for busy weeknights.
Vegetarian Twist: For a vegetarian version, omit the Italian sausage and opt for a medley of sautéed vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach.
Spicy Kick: Add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce for a spicy kick. This variation is perfect for those who enjoy a little heat in their dishes.
To make a keto-friendly Pizza Pasta Casserole, replace the penne pasta with cauliflower or zucchini noodles. Adjust the baking time as needed for the low-carb alternative.
Low Carb Version:
For a lower-carb option, use a mix of spiralized zucchini and spaghetti squash in place of the penne pasta. This creates a lighter yet equally satisfying dish.
The Pizza Pasta Casserole is a testament to the joy of combining two beloved classics into a single, delicious dish. With its layers of pasta, savory sausage, gooey cheese, and flavorful sauce, this casserole is a crowd-pleaser that captures the essence of comfort food. Whether you stick to the classic version or explore variations to suit your preferences, one thing is certain—each bite is a delightful journey into the fusion of pizza and pasta perfection!