One-Dish Dinners Take a Bite Out of Daily Dinner Prep Stress

For many of us, this is the busiest, most hectic, and stressful time of year. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas are on the horizon. We have gifts to purchase and wrap, parties to host and attend, travel plans, work deadlines, and church activities on top of our normal everyday activities and duties.

In order to make the season enjoyable and reduce the amount of stress that I feel as a mother of two young children, I always look for quick and easy dinner time meals that will taste good and satisfy my family, while keeping my workload to a minimum. One of the best solutions that I have found is to look for recipes that have only a few easy- to-find ingredients, that can be made hours (or days ahead of time.) One dish meals (not necessarily traditional casserole recipes) are easy and have been my saving grace in that they are less complicated to make and serve. Not only is preparation more simplified, but getting a one dish meal from the oven to the table is much easier, as well. A delicious meat and pasta dish served with a lovely green salad is all everyone needs on a busy weeknight.

This pasta pronto, one-dish wonder, that I found in the December 2011 edition of Cuisine at Home is sure to delight children and adults, alike. The pasta cooks right in the sauce, so the pasta takes on additional deep rich flavors while the sauce thickens from the starchiness of the pasta. In this type of dish, Cuisine at Home recommends using short-shaped pasta like penne, because they cook more evenly, and starting with a bold-flavored sauce. A richer more flavorful sauce can stand up to the additional liquid that needs to be added to cook the pasta.

One Dish Sausage & Penne Ragu

12 oz. bulk Italian sausage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup diced onion
2 Tbs. each minced garlic and tomato paste
2 tsp. each dried oregano and dried basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine, divided
1- 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1tsp. sugar
1 cup water
8 oz. dry penne pasta
salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
chopped fresh basil

Brown sausage in a large saute pan in oil over medium-high heat, 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and onion, cooking until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, oregano, dried basil, and pepper flakes; saute until fragrant, 1 minute.

Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup wine, increase heat to high and cook until liquid nearly evaporates. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, simmer until thickened, 5-8 minutes. Stir in water and remaining 3/4 cup wine, then add pasta. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler with rack 6″ from the element.

Divide pasta among 6 individual oven safe dishes, like the Fiestaware 4 1/2″ diameter ramekins and arrange on a baking sheet. Top each dish with cheese; broil until cheese is bubbly, 2-3 minutes. Garnish each serving with fresh basil and enjoy!