I’m at a loss to try and wax rhapsodic about this Pizza Casserole recipe. It’s not particularly novel or ingenious and it is frankly only as good as the ingredients you put into it, but it sure scratches the itch for pizza on a busy weeknight. I’ve never had good luck trying to make a French bread or English Muffin pizza or but they invariably turn out soggy or the cheese doesn’t melt before the bread burns. Pizza Casserole takes a little bit of the guess work out of the equation: it will certainly burn if cooked too long, but you can pull it out when the cheese looks like you want it to look.
Now there are dozens upon dozens of Pizza Casserole and Pizza Hot Dish recipes in my community cookbook collection. Some are basically a deep dish pizza with a conventional crust, others substitute biscuit dough or canned crescent rolls, and many use pasta. There’s even a Garden Zucchini Pizza Bake recipe that uses shredded zucchini as the base, back before ridiculous people decided to call them “zoodles”. Sauces range from homemade pizza sauce to canned to decidedly specious concoctions, such as tomato soup mixed with Manwich. (Someday I’ll get up the nerve to make that one). An unsettling number of them use cheddar cheese (!), and just about all of them use ground beef, which doesn’t really seem to jive with pizza.
This particular recipe is adapted from a 1995 cookbook compiled by Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Kenton, Ohio. I chose it from all the others because it uses Italian sausage rather than ground beef and real mozzarella and recognizable pizza toppings. The surrogate crust is made from cooked macaroni. The original calls for canned pizza sauce, but I’ve substituted a “homemade” sauce instead. This sauce would be terrible on pizza, but it seems to provide the right amount of moisture for the casserole. Feel free to substitute your own favorite pizza sauce.
The original recipe calls for a heroic amount of sausage, and I’ve kept those same proportions in my adaptation. If you’re a fan of Gino’s East in Chicago this will be right up your alley, but feel free to cut the amount of sausage in half. Enjoy!
For the sauce:
For the "pizza":
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Open canned tomatoes. Using kitchen shears, cut tomatoes into small pieces while still in the can.
- Mix cut canned tomatoes, tomato paste, anise seed, and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered while preparing the rest of the meal.
- Cook macaroni to al dente as per package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Brown sausage in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Spoon off fat and combine with cooked macaroni and pizza sauce. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 casserole dish.
- Top with cheese, then add pepperoni and pizza toppings as needed.
- Bake 30-35 minutes at 375 F until cheese is molten and bubbly, with a little bit of brown around the edges.