Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cheesy Comfort Food - Baked Pesto Tortellini with Sweet Pesto Chicken Sausage

Some friends of ours recently had their first baby. I LOVED having home cooked meals delivered to our door after the birth of our children, so I always try to "pay it forward" when someone I know has a baby. I figured the weary-eyed parents could use some comfort food, so I was excited to put my own twist on a baked tortellini dish I'd seen from Giada De Laurentiis. What could be more comforting than lots of melted cheese and a creamy tomato sauce. Yum!

I added sweet pesto chicken sausage (from Trader Joe's), used pesto tortellini instead of cheese, and changed a few of the spices to what I had on hand. I think the sausage was a nice addition, and any Italian sausage would probably work. Next time I may try adding chicken and some sort of vegetable.

What makes this recipe so delicious is the smoked mozzarella cheese. It just adds something a little unexpected. It was slightly tough to find, but worth the extra trip to our local Italian market, which luckily for me is across the street from our house. (If you have trouble finding it, try a specialty market like Gelsons,Whole Foods or Fresh Market)

This dish can also be prepared ahead of time (I made mine during the kids nap time) and baked right before serving. I think it would also freeze well. To top it all off, my two year old gobbled up every last bite! I think that is the sign of a truly successful recipe.

Baked Pesto Tortellini with Sweet Pesto Chicken Sausage

Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis
serves 4-6

* Olive oil
* 2 sweet pesto chicken sausage links (or other any other variation of Italian sausage)
* 2 cups marinara sauce
* 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
* 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
* 2 teaspoons dried thyme
* 1 pound purchased pesto and cheese tortellini
* 2 ounces thinly sliced smoked mozzarella
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish.

In a small sauté pan brown the sausage over medium-high heat, until cooked through. Remove sausage from pan, drain any excess oil on a paper towel, and let cool.

Whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, and dried spices in a large bowl to blend.

Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain.

While pasta is cooking slice the sausage (about a ¼ inch thick).

Add the tortellini and sausage to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.
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  1. Yum! I'm glad you posted the recipe so Chad and I can make this and enjoy it again. Not sure when that will be though...maybe in 3 months?

  2. Hang in there Barri! It does get easier, and 3 months will be here before you know it :) So glad you guys enjoyed it.

  3. So what do you do with the remaining mascarpone cheese? Is there another recipe where you use the rest up?

    Going to use this recipe tonight. :-)

  4. Make cannoli!!!

    Actually, I have an amazing french toast recipe that calls for mascarpone. I made it a million years ago and was reminded of it when I saw a similar recipe on Food Network today. Maybe I'll have to post it one of these days, but I think it will use more than your leftover mascarpone. :)

  5. Ahhh... cannoli. Will have to look that one up as I have yet to make one myself!

    The dinner turned out great. It actually fed my hubby, my mom, my aunt, Ellie and me! With leftovers for lunch still! Everyone thought it was yummy but I think the most important opinion is Ellie. She said, "Mommy, you make the most delicious food!". So thanks!