This sauce would be excellent simply served over plain pasta as well.
I made this for Christmas Eve and I think it would be perfect for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
7 tablespoons butter (I used less)
2 cups chopped onion
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ground pork or Italian sausage
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
3/4 tsp crushed sage
3/4 tsp crushed oregano
1 dried pepper, chopped (optional--I didn't use)
6 cups peeled Italian plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound rigatoni or ziti
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups grated Parmesan
Heat 3 tablespoons butter and add onion. Cook until wilted. Add sliced mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms give up their liquid.
Continue to cook until liquid evaporates.
In a separate skillet cook pork or sausage meat (remove casing.) I used pork for a milder flavor. Add meat to the mushrooms and stir. Add garlic, fennel (if not using sausage), basil, sage, oregano and red pepper if using. Cook about three minutes, stirring.
Add the tomatoes (I wasn't sure if the recipe meant fresh or canned but I used two 28-ounce cans including juice.) Add salt, pepper, water, broth and simmer for one hour, stirring frequently.
Add parsley and simmer 15 minutes more. Stir in olive oil and set aside. (I did not add the olive oil feeling there was enough fat in the sauce already. I was also afraid the sauce would be too thin so I added about half a can of tomato paste. I had the pan on the barest simmer and forgot to turn the stove off so probably cooked it for two to three hours in the end. It thickened up nicely and was perfect!)
Cook pasta for eight minutes (it needs to be al dente since it will cook more in the oven.) Drain and run cold water to stop the cooking.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spoon a thin layer of sauce into your casserole dish (13.5 x 8.75 is recommended--don't know what mine was.)
Add a single layer of pasta. Scatter half the mozzarella over it. Top with one tablespoon Parmesan.
Continue making layers of sauce, pasta, mozzarella and Parmesan ending with sauce and Parmesan. (Use about 1/2 cup Parmesan and save the rest for serving at the table.)
Dot with remaining butter (I omitted the extra butter because...well just because.)
Bake 30 minutes uncovered until hot and bubbling. Makes 8 to 12 servings. (We served six adults and one child with plenty of leftovers.)
Coming May 2017
Coming July 2017