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paleo aip penne with italian sausage

Paleo & AIP Baked Penne with Italian Sausage Casserole

This grain-free, dairy-free comfort food casserole is made with real cassava pasta (now easy to buy!), savory spiced pork sausage and a super easy dairy-free "cheese" that all tastes like the real thing.
Course DInner
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword aip, allergy friendly
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 435kcal
Author Megan
Cost $9


  • saucepan (for cheese) and large pot (for pasta)
  • casserole dish


Easy Dairy-free Cheese Topping (10 minutes on the stove top!)

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup coconut milk canned full-fat
  • 1/2 cup water or bone broth
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup cassava flour Otto's or Bob's brands only (other brands are too starchy)
  • 2 Tablespoons tapioca flour also called tapioca starch
  • 1 Tablespoon lard or other solid fat such as ghee, bacon fat etc.
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Baked Penne Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole

  • 1 8-ounce package Jovial brand cassava penne pasta
  • 2 pounds pork sausage bulk, high fat, preferably pasture-raised
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts rinsed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives pitted and sliced in half (or other kind of olive, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup No-Tomato Sauce I like to make this ahead of time and keep it on hand so it's easy to grab for any recipe. If you're not nightshade-free, you can also use regular tomato sauce (for Paleo etc.)
  • 1 large onion chopped small
  • 2 whole celery stalks chopped small
  • 1 whole carrot diced
  • 1/4 cup capers chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lard or other fat of choice: ghee, bacon fat etc. (for sauteing the veggies)
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano dried
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (+ 1 teaspoon additional sea salt for sautéing the veggies) 2 teaspoons for the 2 pounds meat (If you choose to use less meat in this casserole, be sure to reduce the sea salt accordingly: 1 teaspoon for 1 pound meat.)
  • 1 teaspoon basil dried
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder


Dairy-free Cheese Topping (Can be made several days ahead of time or right before you bake the casserole.) See video in main post to watch the sauce being made.

  • First: Decide if you want to make the Dairy-free Cheese ahead of time or not. If you want to make it and pour it into a lined mold to slice, simply line a small glass casserole dish with a layer of parchment paper. If you wish, spray any bare glass sides with coconut oil spray. Now, go ahead and make the cheese ahead of time. Then you'll chill it until you're ready to make the rest of the recipe. This is the best choice if you like to meal prep and want your dinner assembly to be extra fast with one less step.
    If you want to make the Dairy-free Cheese right before baking the casserole, you can keep it warm while you assemble the casserole. This is the most straight forward way to make the whole recipe, because the cheese is a sauce that's easy to spread on the pasta dish, and the cheese sauce cooks up really fast.
  • To a medium saucepan, add: coconut milk, lard or ghee, apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, oregano and sea salt. Heat over medium-high heat while whisking until the mixture is very steamy, almost simmering.
  • In a 2 cup measuring cup with pour spout (or bowl), whisk together the water and pumpkin. Add cassava flour and whisk until incorporated. Add the tapioca flour and whisk again, until evenly mixed.
  • Pour the cassava mixture into the saucepan of hot milk, and continue to whisk and cook over medium-high heat. The mixture will begin to thicken after about 1 to 3 minutes (depending on how hot the milk was when you mixed in the cassava flour slurry), and then keep thickening. The "cheese" will become gelatinous/sticky and pull away from the sides or bottom of the pot somewhat as whisked. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes after the cheese pulls away from the sides or bottom of the pan, about 4 to 5 minutes total after the mixture first thickened.
  • Pour Cheese Topping directly onto assembled casserole, keep it warm until the casserole is ready OR pour into lined dish to chill for later.

Baked Penne Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole

  • Grease large casserole dish, any shape is fine, which holds 2-1/2 to 3 quarts (9"x13" is fine, or I used a deep 9"x11"). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook penne pasta according to package instructions. Remove from heat when still al dente, after 10 to 15 minutes cooking time. When you pour off the salted cooking water, reserve 1/2 cup of it. Put strained pasta back in its cooking pot with the 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
  • Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 pounds pork and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Cook, breaking up the meat, until most of the pink is gone, about 8 minutes. Add herbs: oregano, basil and onion powder. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and set aside. (This recipe assumes you are using full-fat pasture-raised high quality pork. Do not use lean ground pork. If your pork is not high-fat, add two tablespoons lard or other fat to the pan while the meat cooks.)
  • In second skillet, heat the 1 Tablespoon lard (or fat of choice) over medium-high heat, and sauté onions, carrots and celery + 1 teaspoon remaining sea salt, stirring often, for about 8 minutes, until softened and browned in spots. Turn off heat. Set aside.
  • To large pot with pasta, add artichoke hearts, capers, olives, Nomato (or tomato) Sauce, cooked sausage and sautéed veggies. Stir together well. Pour into greased casserole dish. Top with either slices of chilled Dairy-free Cheese or warm, soft freshly made cheese.
  • Bake about 40 to 45 minutes, times will vary just slightly based on casserole dish size and depth. Edges of casserole will have tiny sizzling bubbles and be browned slightly. Cheese will be puffed, golden and melted inside. If you used sliced cheese, you may wish now to smash it around a bit and broil it. If so, remove casserole, use the tines of fork to smash cheese around a bit so the pieces run into eachother; smooth it out so it looks nice. Sprinkle with additional oregano if you wish. Broil on low heat (to protect casserole dish) for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes. Serve!
    one serving removed from paleo penne casserole


Calories: 435kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 1287mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1965IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 3mg