Penne Pasta Casserole With Homemade Turkey Sausage

Published on November 20, 2021

This is basically Chef John’s “The Best Baked Ziti” recipe, using penne pasta instead of ziti pasta because I couldn’t find a gluten-free penne, and adding less of it, using homemade turkey sausage instead of half pork sausage and half spicy pork sausage, more mozzarella and more ricotta, jazzing up the ricotta a bit, with spinach added to it if you want, Parmigiana Reggiano cheese instead of Pecorino Romano cheese, and arranging the casserole a little differently. Check out his recipe with a video and take your pick how you want to make it.

Penne Pasta Casserole With Homemade Turkey Sausage

Penne Pasta Casserole With Homemade Turkey Sausage

the meat sauce

Meat Sauce

Italian Turkey Sausage

You can add some cayenne to taste if you like your sausage spicy.


Mix the seasonings together and then gently mix them into the meat. Heat a large dutch oven on medium high. Add the oil then the sausage and break it up into small pieces as it cooks. When there is no more pink in the sausage, transfer it to a bowl and let cool.

ingredients for the sausage
preparing the sausage
cooked sausage

Pasta Sauce


Wipe out the dutch oven. Add the avocado oil then the onions and saute them until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the herbs, marinara, water and the sausage. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

Thirty minutes before the sauce is done, heat the water and boil the pasta al dente. It will finish cooking in the final baking. When the sauce is done mix the partially cooked pasta into it.

Note: You don’t want to overcooked gluten-free pasta or it will become mushy. The instructions on the Barilla Gluten-Free Penne says to cook it 10 minutes for al dente. Make it 9 minutes.

ingredients for the sauce
preparing the sauce
adding the cooked pasta
Ricotta Layer ingredients

Ricotta Layer


While the sauce is simmering, mix all the ricotta layer ingredients together and put in the refrigerator.

*I used to squeeze cooked spinach dry by putting it in a bowl and pressing it with a large spoon as I tilted the bowl so the water would run out, and then putting it in a clean towel or paper towels to squeeze out the rest of the water. This was very messy. I have tried pressing it between two dinner plates which worked very well but I was concerned the plates might break. Then I tried light weight metal bowls and it was super easy, nothing to worry about, and no mess. To do it this way, you need to find two light weight metal bowls that fit inside each other fairly snuggly, with about a 1/2″ gap between the two bowls. Place the spinach in the larger bowl, lay the smaller one on top and squeeze them together, tilt to drain the water, lift the top bowl and fold the spinach over itself using a fork, place the bowl back over it and tilt and press again, repeating this until the water is all out. It takes 5 to 6 times total.

pressing the juice out of spinach
components for assembly



Layer the ingredients in a 9″ by 13″ casserole:

Before adding the two cheeses on top, press the noodles down using a spatula to make the to of the casserole flat. Bake the casserole, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until it’s very hot and browning around the edges. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and/or basil. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

1/2 of the meat and pasta mixture
all of the ricotta cheese mixture
1/2 of the mozzarella cheese
the other 1/2 of the meat and pasta mixture
flattening the top
topped with the remaining mozzarella and the parmesan
Penne Pasta Casserole With Homemade Turkey Sausage
red tree in front of our house
red tree in front of our house