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Recipe Test: Skillet Penne with Olives and Capers

(Image Credit:  Cook's Country)

Last night I tried this recipe that first appeared in the October/November, 2011, issue of Cook's Country.  It was so quick and simple to make, with a minimum of mess because it's made entirely in one skillet from start to finish.  Dry pasta is added to a can of crushed tomatoes and some water, and it cooks to al dente right in the skillet.  Genius!  It doesn't even require much in the way of measuring cups or utensils.

The original recipe called for hot Italian sausage, which has always been too spicy for my innards.  Besides, I don't like food that sets my mouth on fire so that I can't taste anything else.  I substituted bulk Italian sausage and added 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Mike and I agreed that it had just enough kick without being over-the-top spicy.  If you like spicy food, by all means, go back to the original pound of hot Italian sausage and leave out the red pepper flakes.  If you're sort of a middle-of-the-road spicy person, you might want to add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes to increase the heat a tad.

So here's my version of the recipe.  Serve it with a side salad, and dinner is ready in about half an hour.

Skillet Penne with Olives and Capers
Adapted from Cook's Country
Serves 4-6    

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound  bulk Italian sausage
2 garlic cloves -- minced
1 can  (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 cups  water
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12  ounces dry penne
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives -- halved
1/4 cup capers -- rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6 ounces Italian cheese blend -- shredded (1 1/2 cups)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450°F.  Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Cook sausage, breaking into pieces, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, water, and pasta.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften, about 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.  Stir in olives, capers, and basil.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese begins to brown, 4-6 minutes.  Serve.

My notes about the recipe:  There was only one choice for the "Italian cheese blend" in my grocery store, and it was the store brand.  If you can't find it, then just use a mixture of about 3 parts mozzarella to 1 part Parmesan cheese.  Also, I used a deep skillet, and I was glad I did.  There is quite a lot of liquid in a large can of crushed tomatoes, especially when you then dump in an additional 2 cups of water.  If the handle on your skillet is not oven-proof, then just wrap it in foil.  You'll have no problems whatsoever.  That's what I did, and my house is still standing this morning.  Oh yes, and the handle is still on the skillet.  Bonus!

It's been blustery and cold here the last few days.  It's still cold, but the wind has died down.  The Georginator is itching to get outside for a walk, so that's next on my agenda.  There is snow in our forecast beginning Sunday.  I can't wait!

3 comments from clever and witty friends:

Teresa in Music City said...

Ok - so now I'm hungry! Lunch time is definitely overdue!!! Your recipe looks delicious....

Gidget said...

Sounds yummy thank you!

Loretta said...

Hey Barbara, your dish looks mighty tasty! I'm gonna get Loretta to cook up a batch of it, I'm hungry seeing it! James