Hurricane Irene Baked Penne with Sausage and Peppers

Severe weather makes me want to cook. Quite possibly this is due to our frequent and sometimes prolonged power outages and fear of losing my refrigerator’s contents.

Today I was determined to use the last of the tomato crop to make homemade sauce, something I have never done before with fresh tomatoes. I blanched and then peeled and then simmered and then congratulated myself on being such an outstanding homemaker, the kind who makes fresh sauce right before a hurricane. Pride is a sin; when will I learn that? I was grinding some sea salt into my sauce when — BOOM! — the top broke off and dumped about 20 tablespoons of salt into my pot. Then I cried a little.

All that work down the drain!

When faced with going out to the store for tomatoes with all of the crazies buying batteries and milk, Ed decided hunting down more tomatoes from the garden was the preferable option. These were not the grade A tomatoes I just ruined (shown below, RIP), but there were enough to make another sauce. I was kind of hoping he would have fetched me a couple jars of Barilla at this point, but sometimes you just have to start over. I put on Pandora’s French Cafe music station and got back to work.

Peeled tomatoes

Shallot, basil and garlic

This will work equally well with ziti or penne, with sausage or without. Don’t skimp on the cheese, though!

Simple Tomato Sauce

About 10 Roma or plum tomatoes, peeled and cut in half

1 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 handful of basil

1/2 cup red wine

salt to taste

In a large stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot to soften for about two minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, garlic, tomatoes, wine, and sugar. Cover with lid ajar and simmer over low heat, about 30 minutes. With potato masher, break up tomatoes until well combined, and continue to simmer for at least another 10 minutes. Add salt to taste, being careful not to dump the whole container into your pot.


2 cans premium tomato sauce

Hurricane Irene Baked Penne with Sausage and Peppers


Sauce of your choice, see above

1 package ziti or penne, cooked to al dente instructions

1 pound sausage, browned (I used hot Italian poultry sausage, Irene’s favorite)

1 onion, chopped

1 large pepper, chopped

Whole milk ricotta cheese, 15 oz.

2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brown sausage and add to sauce, simmering on low. In same skillet, saute onion and pepper, then add to sauce. Mix in ricotta cheese until well combined. Add 1 cup mozzarella, stir well, and then add pasta. All ingredients are now in one pot, see below.

Pour into a deep casserole dish or 13 x 9 glass pan, spread evenly, and top with one cup mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve with red wine, unless you are worried that you will be without power for several days and want to save your wine for emergencies.