Whole Wheat Penne in Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce with Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage topped with Parmesan-Panko Breadcrumbs

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

3 heads garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus a pinch, divided use
4 links Spicy Italian Chicken sausage, diced into small cubes
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 (14.5 ounce) cans organic, no-salt diced tomatoes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounce bag whole wheat Penne pasta
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided use
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced, divided use

Preparation:

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare 3 small squares of foil for garlic heads.

-Cut the tops off of the 3 heads of garlic, drizzle each with about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and sprinkle on a pinch of salt; wrap each garlic head tightly in a small piece of foil, and roast in the oven for 40 minutes; remove from oven, unwrap the heads and allow to cool; then squeeze the cloves from the papers and smash lightly with a fork to form a paste, and set aside to use in sauce.

-In a large, heavy-bottom pan or pot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; once hot, add the diced chicken sausage and cook until golden-brown; next add the diced onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes; next add the garlic, the Italian seasoning, the oregano and the pinch of red pepper flakes, and give a stir, allowing to become aromatic; once aromatic, add the red wine and deglaze the pan, gently scraping all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan; next add the tomato paste and stir, and allow to cook for about 1-2 minutes until the raw flavor is cooked out, then add the 3 cans of diced tomatoes, the reserved roasted garlic, the 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and the black pepper, and allow the sauce to simmer slightly covered for about 20-25 minutes while the Penne is cooked and the breadcrumbs are made; stir occasionally.

-Prepare the Penne pasta according to package instructions (you can add some salt and oil to the cooking water, as well).

-While Penne cooks and sauce simmers, combine the Panko breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small bowl, and use your fingers or a fork to incorporate together; in a small pan set over medium-low heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast, continually stirring, for about 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn the breadcrumbs; once the breadcrumbs are golden brown, remove from the pan and add back into the small dish; next add the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley and the grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs, and combine well with your fingers of a fork; set aside to use as a garnish/topping for pasta.

-Once Penne is cooked, drain and set aside to add to the sauce.

-To finish the sauce, turn heat off and add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon of the chopped basil and stir; next, add the cooked Penne directly into the sauce (or you can spoon the sauce over the Penne if easier), and toss to coat.

To Serve:

-Spoon Penne with the Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce into a bowl, and garnish with about 2-3 tablespoons of the Parmesan-Panko Breadcrumbs, and a sprinkling of the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped basil.