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Author Notes: This recipe is adapted from Al Forno's famous baked pasta method -- it uses less cream and cheese, and incorporates a hearty sausage ragu for a more tomatoey pasta. A word of advice: if you're not going to bake off the finished dish right away, boil the pasta for even less time than the instructions call for (like 2-3 minutes). As the pasta lies cradled in delicious sauce in the fridge it will continue to soften, and you don't want it to turn to mush. —Merrill Stubbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 pound fresh sweet Italian sausage (I use chicken, but feel free to use pork)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- Kosher salt
- 1 fat clove garlic, peeled and smashed
- Handful basil leaves
- 4 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 1 pound short pasta (I like penne or conchiglie)
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium heavy saucepan until shimmering. Remove the sausage from the casings and add it to the pan, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown the sausage well, stirring a couple times, about 5 minutes.
- Create a hole in the middle of the pan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and the basil and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens and the flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Remove the basil leaves and set the sauce aside.
- Heat the oven to 500 °F and butter a 2-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the sausage sauce with the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta and butter. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir well.
- Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Drain well and add to the mixing bowl, tossing gently to combine everything.
- Spread the pasta evenly into the baking dish. Dot evenly with the butter, and bake until bubbly and brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!