When I was growing up (especially when I was living in our tiny island called Marinduque), having an oven (whether gas or electric) in one's house was quite a luxury and, truth be told, impractical. An electric oven was considered a luxury because it was expensive and most people cook on the stove top anyway. More importantly, it was impractical, at least the electric one - because there was no electricity to power it. I remember those days, when we only had power at night between 6-10 pm. This was in the early 80s. Oftentimes, there were outages too, in fact - everyday! Oh, life in a small island. In fact, while we were proud owners of a refrigerator - it was gas-powered. Literally, my mother has to ignite some flame to get the fridge to start working. I felt like I was camping. Thankfully, despite all its dangers our whole family survived.
Don't get me wrong, those days were the best times of my life, too. So many lovely memories were built around nights when my cousins and I would play under the glow of the moonlight! I won't trade those times for anything. They were the best!
Now you may wonder - what does this have to do with the recipe above? Don't worry, we'll get there. When I finally left for England to pursue my masters in Law, I began my journey on learning how to cook. I didn't really fancy much of the food in our dining hall or the refectory so I found myself often in the kitchen in Wadham College cooking! I even bought a little rice cooker so I can cook rice anytime. There, I finally got the chance to cook using a real electric oven! This was in 2000. Don't laugh now but this is true!
When I learned how useful an oven can be (we mostly cook our food on the stove top in the Philippines to this day), then began my love for baking and cooking in general. Baking is wonderful and has become something I truly enjoy. I didn't start with cakes right away, mostly easy casserole dishes. I was ecstatic everytime I baked something especially when they come out - edible - and truly enjoyable! So far my whole family has survived and the kids have been growing despite my cooking! :-)
So, here is one of those easy dishes that I make for my family in the oven. I must admit, it involves a little bit of stove top cooking to begin with. With my upbringing, I can never take that away. Enjoy! :-)
12 oz Penne pasta
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Bacon strips, chopped into small pieces
3 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium Onion
1 lb cooked Chicken Sausage, chopped diagonally
½ cup White Wine
4-5 Roma or plum Tomatoes, chopped
½ cup pitted Olives, chopped
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups Mozzarella cheese or Italian Blend cheese
Ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Make sure that it's just cooked al dente. Preheat the oven to 350F (180 C).
While the pasta is cooking, place the olive oil and bacon on a large skillet. Cook until the bacon starts to render its fat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the onion starts to soften.
Add the chicken sausage. Cook until the sausages have browned a little. Pour the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add the chopped tomatoes and olives. Season with ground black pepper (there’s enough salt in the ingredients that I don’t feel it’s necessary to add more but feel free to season with salt, if you wish to). Simmer for 10 minutes.
When the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce. Check the seasoning. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
Transfer to a baking dish and then top with the Mozarella or Italian Blend cheeses. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. The finished product - delicious!
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