Welcome to this week’s episode of Sauce Sunday’s, a tradition we pick up around this time of year when the temperature starts to drop. It's the perfect time to have the windows open, a sauce simmering on the stove and the apartment filled with the smell of a home cooked meal. The tomato sauce is flavored with shallots, lots of garlic, red bell peppers, sweet italian sausage and mushrooms(!!) which adds moisture, texture and hint of umami to this dish. The hardest part of this recipe is getting started, aka the prep work. After you’ve prepped all of the ingredients, you really only have to check on the sauce every so often to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot, boil off your pasta and bake.
There are a few things that you can add or adapt to make to this recipe:
1) Add ½ cup of sourcream to the pasta before baking for a creamier version of this pasta bake.
2) If you'd like to avoid some of the prep work, use ⅓-½ cup of red sofrito and 1 yellow onion instead of chopping garlic, shallots and peppers.
3) If you like it spicy, add 1 Italian Roaster pepper, halved or a teaspoon of red chili flakes to the sauce.
Savory cooking is far more forgiving than baking, so don’t stress too much and enjoy the process. When serving, I like to spread a generous amount of ricotta on the bottom of the plate and serve the hot pasta over top. Then generously season with red pepper flakes and fresh basil.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage
- 1/ 4 cup red wine
- 1/ 4 cup beef stock
- 1 (24 ounce) jar tomato sauce of choice
- 1 pound large pasta shells
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 3/ 4 cup fresh ricotta cheese, for serving
- Handful of basil leaves, chiffonade, for garnishing
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and cook until soft and translucent.
Add garlic, red bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until fragrant and vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Season with oregano, salt and pepper.
Add sausage and cook until golden brown and cooked through. Using a fork or a heat proof spatula to break up any large chunks.
Deglaze the pan with red wine and beef stock. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomato sauce and allow to simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stir occasionally.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the bay leaf and pasta. Cook according to package instructions or until al dente. While pasta is cooking, preheat oven to 375°F.
Drain pasta, add to the tomato sauce and toss to combine. Add mozzarella and season to taste.
Add pasta to a baking dish, cover the top with more mozzarella and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and then bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Serve with fresh ricotta, basil, and red pepper flakes.