It’s been a bittersweet week at the Penney Lane Kitchen household. Things big and small marking time marching on and causing that spinning helpless feeling of looking for a pause button.
The biggest change for us was letting go of our sweet old Great Pyrenees Carson. He was seriously just the best dog and even though he “was here first” in our family was amazing with my kids when they came along. He was 12 so was pretty ancient for a giant breed so in that sense I knew we were doing the right thing and he wouldn’t hurt anymore, but the house is a little emptier without that polar bear. It also had me wondering where did 9 years go?! He was 3 when we rescued him. (And I can’t thank everyone enough for reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to offer kind words on our old friend’s passing.)
On a smaller and less sad scale but still bittersweet, we have passed a milestone with Caitlin without me realizing it over the last few months. She has gone from crying and screaming in her car seat on long car trips (Yes, she still did it as a toddler.) to being a fairly pleasant (if sometimes too chatty) little passenger. It really hit me when we were on the way to visit my mother in a the country a few hours away and we got stuck in a huge traffic jam how much she’s grown when she wasn’t crying and screaming….but offering “helpful” advice and observations. Here’s a few Caitlin helpful tidbits that came like a little dripping faucet every few minutes from our weekend trip:
“Mama, there’s a lot of traffic.” Yep, feels like half of Houston is stuck here.
“Mama, our van can’t go with all the cars.” Nope, the van definitely isn’t moving. For half an hour.
“Mama, are you lost?” I was wishing Calgon would take me away. Does that count?
“Mama, is the van lost?” There’s so many bells and whistles on this thing it could probably knit a sweater so I doubt it’s lost.
And as we get out into the rural area near my mama’s
“This is a lot of trees. Does Ninny live in a forest?” This is what we affectionately called “the sticks” when I grew up honey.
Now, just take a nap, baby girl.
Between letting go of our sweet old friend and my “baby” now being a backseat driver I needed to seek solace in my kitchen and make some comfort food. One of my favorite dishes I’ve made recently was my Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole and so it was time to whip out the casserole dish again. This time I was bringing all the carbs and cheese and made this Easy Sausage Pasta Bake.
- 112 oz package of ziti, cooked (could also use penne)
- 1 16 oz package smoked link sausage sliced (could also use Italian sausage)
- 1 large onion chopped
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 14 oz crushed and diced tomatoes drained (I used one Fire Roasted and the other with Basil & Oregano)
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 8 oz package shredded Mozzarella cheese (divided)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Brown the sausage in a large deep skillet and when it is almost done add the onions and garlic to saute.
- Stir in the drained tomatoes, salt, and crushed red pepper.
- Reduce heat to low and let simmer about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add pasta to a lightly greased 13x9 casserole dish.
- Pour sausage and tomato mixture over the pasta.
- Add the ricotta cheese and all but about 1 cup mozzarella.
- Stir to combine.
- Top with parmesan and mozzarella.
- Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.
This dish does take a little time just because you have to brown the sausage and saute the onions (in the same pan) and cook the pasta, but this really is no brainer kind of stuff. I popped an episode of Chopped on the DVR in my little kitchen TV and by the time it was done so was dinner.
During a week where too much was happening and I felt like time was slipping away, one thing that’s timeless and never changes is a good recipe. I can take comfort in putting the ingredients together and knowing what the outcome will be which is not always the case on week’s like this. But the one good thing about time is that even if it doesn’t heal everything it at least makes it hurt a little less so by the end of this week we were remembering our sweet old friend and how he was faster than he looked and once caught a squirrel and I chose to embrace the neat little person my backseat driver is growing into and not be sad for the baby that she isn’t anymore. And honestly, pasta and cheese is a great bandaid. 🙂
This recipe was modified from this one from Southern Living.