Even though this Pizza Casserole can be frozen for later, you’re not going to want to do that. It’s the ultimate in delicious comfort food.
Even though my daughter is still wearing shorts to school, it’s officially fall in my neck of the woods. Yes, yes, I know that the calendar declared it was so a few weeks ago, but you know as well as I do that sometimes those official keepers of time can lie.
Soon after the ‘real’ first day of autumn, our temperatures soared into the low 80’s. The leaves were green and Hubby was out mowing the lawn. Not so fallish in my opinion. This week, however, things are different, unless, of course, you look at Sophie’s wardrobe.
Beyond the fact that the trees are turning gold and crimson and the sky is a deeper, richer shade of blue, I notice fall’s arrival in the way my friends talk. We’re discussing movie nights instead of picnics while we drink latte’s instead of lemonade, okay, it was Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but it’s still lemonade.
This past Tuesday night, while Sophie was doing the Girl Scout thing, one of the other moms (hi Monica) was bemoaning her recent yet thorough addiction to Pinterest (yes, staring at pin boards until 2 a.m. constitutes an addiction).
Monica mentioned that she’s been drawn to casseroles lately and I had to agree with her. I’ve felt the pull too.
I think they should have called this rib-sticking, tummy-filling bad boy a Meat-Lovers Pizza Casserole, considering the fact that it holds a pound of sausage, 6 ounces of Canadian bacon and a good amount of pepperoni.
In a way, the process is much the same as putting together a lasagne. While my pasta cooked, I browned my sausage along with the mushrooms, Canadian bacon, onion and garlic in a big skillet, then added the wine and marinara (since I used hot Italian sausage I didn’t add pepper flakes).
I’ll confess that I made another change along with leaving out the pepper. Since our family really dislikes ricotta’s grainy texture, I used reduced-fat cream cheese for the cheese layer. I simply subbed it in and combined it with the Parmesan and sour cream as the instructions requested.
Layering the pasta, sausage, cheese and Mozzarella filled up my biggest casserole dish completely and I finished it off with rounds of pepperoni. I found 40 minutes of baking to be the perfect amount of time.
Let’s get the whole mushroom thing out of the way first. I love them and they were awesome. Sophie ran a vivid commentary every time she came across one and I ended up a nice pile on the side of my plate. Hubby just surreptitiously left his to the side.
Other than the fungus thing, this casserole received hearty thumbs up. Sophie just about licked her plate clean and Hubby enjoyed a oversized serving down to the last ziti noodle. I have to admit that I contemplated having seconds.
The only negative comment I heard was from Hubby, who mentioned that there was a bit too much cheese for him. The casserole is very cheesy. I think it would have worked just as well to omit the Mozzarella from the middle layer and just sprinkle 8 ounces on top.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d use cream cheese instead of ricotta because we’re not ricotta fans and I would omit the Mozzarella from the middle layer, only using 8 ounces on top.
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 8 ounces sliced fresh baby portobello mushrooms
- 6 ounces Canadian bacon, chopped
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 2 26-ounce jars marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 16-ounce package ziti pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 1 16-ounce package shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup sliced pepperoni
- Preheat oven to 350 and spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
- Cook sausage, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, onion and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through and crumbly. Drain. Add the wine and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until almost all the liquid is evaporated.
- Add in the marinara and red pepper flakes, stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Mix together the Parmesan, ricotta and sour cream in a medium bowl.
- Layer half the pasta, half the sausage mixture, all the ricotta mixed and half the mozzarella in the prepared baking dish. Repeat the layers, ending with the mozzarella. Arrange the pepperoni slices on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
I’m pretty sure that when my parents read this, they won’t be able to get beyond the first line about Sophie still wearing shorts to school. I may even get an e-mail about how she needs to be bundled up so she won’t catch cold. I pick my battles, my friends, and forcing layers of clothes on my hot little dynamo isn’t one we choose to fight, especially since she really isn’t cold yet. Me, however; I’m wearing a sweater.