Baked pasta (or pasta al forno in Italian) is very easy to make. Combining sauce, cheese and pasta couldn't be simpler, but produces a taste that is greater than the sum of its parts. In terms of additional ingredients, such as meat or vegetables, simply use what you have on hand. The cheese I used, pecorino, is a hard, salty sheep's-milk cheese that is used for grating.
- 1 pound (500 grams) penne or other short pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 pound (500 grams) sweet or spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
- 1 pound (500 grams) cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 6 cups)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 796-millilitre can ground Italian tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 11/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups grated provolone cheese (about 12 ounces/375 grams)
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving cooking water separately. Set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion and sausage meat and sauté for 3 minutes or until sausage meat loses its pinkness. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes or until slightly limp. Add wine and bring to a boil. Stir in tomatoes, 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water, balsamic vinegar and oregano and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove pan from heat and stir in 2 cups provolone and 1/2 cup pecorino, then add pasta and extra-virgin olive oil and stir until combined. Pile into an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle remaining 1 cup provolone and 1/2 cup pecorino over pasta and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until sauce bubbles and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Serves 8.