Introducing the “Best Italian Bake,” a delightful and hearty dish that’s perfect for any gathering or a cozy family dinner. This recipe combines the comforting flavors of Italy in one easy-to-make bake. It features a mix of al dente pasta, rich and tangy spaghetti sauce, and a generous amount of melted mozzarella cheese. The dish is further enriched with a savory blend of chopped onions, sweet red bell peppers, tender pieces of boneless chicken breast, and flavorful Italian sausages, all sautéed to perfection. A dash of Italian seasoning, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, adds the perfect finishing touch to this mouth-watering meal. Whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this Best Italian Bake is sure to impress and satisfy your taste buds. Let’s dive into the recipe and bring a taste of Italy to your table!
- 1 lb. Pasta (any type, cooked until al dente)
- 2 Jars of spaghetti sauce (your choice of flavor)
- 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Red bell peppers, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 ½ lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 lb. Italian sausages, sliced into pieces
- 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
- ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the Oven: Start by heating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius). This moderate temperature will bake the casserole thoroughly without burning the cheese topping.
- Cook the Pasta: Cook your choice of pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente. Remember, the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so it’s best not to overcook it at this stage. Once cooked, drain it and set aside.
- Prepare the Meat and Vegetables:
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the sliced Italian sausages and chicken pieces to the skillet. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chopped onion and red bell pepper chunks to the skillet. Continue to sauté the mixture, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through. This should take about 5-7 minutes. The chicken should no longer be pink in the center, and the sausages should be nicely browned.
- Season the mixture with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
- Combine Ingredients:
- If there’s excess fat in the skillet, carefully drain it.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, sautéed meat, and vegetables, and pour in the spaghetti sauce. Gently mix these together until everything is evenly coated with the sauce.
- Assemble the Bake:
- Transfer the mixture into a large baking dish. Spread it evenly.
- Sprinkle the shredded Mozzarella cheese over the top, ensuring an even layer that covers the entire surface.
- Bake: Place the baking dish in the preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the edges of the bake are slightly golden brown.
- Serve: Let the bake sit for a few minutes after removing it from the oven. This resting period allows it to set, making it easier to serve. Cut into squares or scoop out with a large spoon and serve hot.
- Feel free to add vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini for extra flavor and texture.
- For a spicier version, use spicy Italian sausage or add red pepper flakes to the meat while sautéing.
- You can prepare this dish ahead of time and refrigerate. Just add an extra 5-10 minutes to the baking time if baking from cold.
Enjoy your meal! This hearty Italian Bake is perfect for family dinners or potlucks.