Recipes // Main Dish Pasta // Nonna’s Recipe Showdown: Penne al Forno

Nonna’s Recipe Showdown: Penne al Forno

This penne pie was my Nonna Carmela’s specialty. Well that, and saying “Ye, ye, ye” when she didn’t understand a word you were saying.

Grocery List

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 3 cups canned San Marzano plum tomatoes, hand‑crushed
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb penne (1 package)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano


  • Large saucepan
  • Large pot
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large baking dish


servings:    6  |  easy


Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the chile flakes, and sauté for about 1 minute, until the garlic is golden and fragrant. Add the red onion and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion has some crispy edges. Add the ground sirloin and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the beef crumbles. Pour in the plum tomatoes, and then add the parsley, oregano, bay leaf, raw sugar, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered.


Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente, about 10 minutes. You don’t want to fully cook the pasta because you’ll also be baking it. Drain.

Shkiaffing it Together

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the penne to a large bowl, and mix in half of the Bolognese sauce. Generously grease a baking dish with the unsalted butter. Add a 1-inch layer of penne, 1/2 cup of sauce, 1/3 cup of grated mozzarella, and a heaping tablespoon of grated Parmigiano. Repeat this until all the pasta is used. Top it off with grated mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

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