Pasta, which is simple to whip up and keeps well if there are leftovers, was a big winner on a family ski holiday we took. I made a huge pan of macaroni and cheese, which several kids ate all week and I jazzed up for this menu with mushrooms and sausage.
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.