Do you ever get a craving for lasagna, and start thinking of the different steps involved in putting it together and remember how much effort it really is? Okay, truth by known, I belong to the camp of people that still pre-boils the lasagne noodles and likes to make a proper bolognese for the sauce, which needs to simmer in order to enjoy those deep flavors. So…wanting something sooner rather than later, I came up with this baked tortellini casserole to satisfy those moments. It’s a bit like a baked lasagna — it’s got pasta, mince in the form of Italian sausage, tomato sauce and of course a cheesy parmesan top — but it’s a whole lot easier and quicker to pull together.
Ready made fresh cheese filled tortellini is of course the main reason this dish is so easy to assemble (by the way, I’m sure ravioli would work well too). All there is to it is to cook the sauce, toss it together in a casserole dish with the tortellini, cover with parmesan, bake, give it a stir, add more cheese and bake some more until bubbly. That’s it! Simple.
I decided to skip the minced meat and use salsiccia, which is a full flavored Sicilian style pork sausage. The main seasonings are fennel or anise, and pepper. Depending on the butcher, some recipes are more peppery than others, so keep this in mind when adding additional seasoning. It’s available sweet (mild) or hot, differing only with the addition of hot red pepper flakes. I opted for sweet for a kid-friendly version, but if you like spicy, I would recommend a mix of both. Enjoy!
Baked Tortellini with Italian Sausage (Salsiccia)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 slices pancetta
4 good-quality organic Italian sausages (salsiccia), casings removed and crumbled
2/3 cup dry white wine (150 ml)
1 large carrot, minced
1 pointed sweet red pepper, minced
410 g jar organic pureed tomatoes (passata)
1/4 cup water (60 ml) (optional: depending on how saucy you like your pasta; I opted for saucy)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
500 g package of fresh four cheese tortellini
1/2 cup grated parmesan (50 g)
1. Using a large, heavy sauté pan or saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the Italian sausages to the pan and sauté, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink, about 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Add wine, sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the carrot and red pepper; stir to combine.
3. Then add the pureed tomatoes, water and oregano; stir to combine and sauté for 4-5 minutes, before reducing the heat to medium-low. Season with salt and pepper, according to taste. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C.
5. Add the tortellini to a large casserole dish, pour the sauce over and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with half of the parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 10 minutes.
6. Stir casserole, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake 10 minutes longer, uncovered, or until pasta is tender. If you would like a crisper top, broil for the last 3-4 minutes.
NOTES: I like to use a manual hand chopper to mince my shallots, carrots, and red pepper. If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets then just finely chop the vegetables.
I also use a fresh store-bought tortellini which only requires 2 minutes cooking time, so it is not necessary to boil the pasta beforehand.