by Susan Hanna

This excellent baked pasta from NYT Cooking combines sausage with spices, tomatoes, pasta and lots of cheese. Brown the sausage and add spices. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer. Add the pasta, then remove from heat and top with the cheese. Bake until the pasta is cooked and then run under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top.

Serves 4.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

I used Free From hot Italian sausages and Unico tomatoes. Check the spices to make sure they don’t contain colour or anti-caking agents. Look for fresh mozzarella and ricotta without additives or preservatives. Genuine Parmesan cheese is additive-free – look for the name stamped on the rind. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound (340 g) bulk hot or mild Italian sausage (pork, chicken or turkey)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
  •  Pinch of red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 (28-ounce/793 g) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 (14-ounce/396 g) can crushed or strained tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces (340 g) dried pasta, such as small shells, farfalle or other shaped pasta
  • 8 ounces (226 g) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 6 ounces (170 g) whole-milk ricotta (about ¾ cup/187 ml)
  • ⅓ cup (82 ml) grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) basil leaves
  • Black pepper, for serving

Preparation:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F (218 C). Heat oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Crumble sausage into skillet, using a spoon to break it into small pieces. Cook until starting to brown, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and red-pepper flakes (if using) and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in whole tomatoes and their juice, using a spoon to break them up. Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes to thicken slightly.
  3. Stir in pasta and 1 cup (250 ml) water and return to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, pluck out the bay leaves, and fold in about a third of the mozzarella.
  4. Top pasta with remaining mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then transfer to oven. Bake until pasta is tender when poked with a fork, and cheese is bubbly and lightly golden, 18 to 22 minutes. (If you’d like a more deeply browned topping, run the pan under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving. Top with basil, plenty of black pepper, and more red-pepper flakes, if you like.

From NYT Cooking