Make this ahead of time and bake it just before you need it. Buy your tomato sauce or make the winter tomato sauce that follows. But don’t mix the sauce and pasta together until the pasta is cool so that the pasta does not become gummy.
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2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks
8 oz (250 g) sliced mixed mushrooms
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 lb (500 g) Italian sausages, hot or sweet, removed from casing
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups (1litre) store bought or homemade tomato sauce
1 lb (500 g) penne
8 ounces (250 g) shredded fontina or mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, mushrooms and chilies and sauté for 2 minutes. Crumble in sausage meat and cook until it loses its pinkness, about 5 minutes. Add red wine and tomato sauce and bring to boil. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly thickened and tasty. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly firmer than al dente. Drain at once and transfer to a large bowl. Cool pasta. Mix in sausage-tomato sauce, three quarters of fontina and half of Parmesan cheese. Stir in parsley. Season well with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a large oiled baking dish. Top with remaining fontina and Parmesan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top is melted and the mixture is hot. Finish under the broiler for 2 minutes if you want a glazed, golden top.
Suggested Wine Pairings
You’ve got your pasta, your sausages, your fontina and tomato sauce. Does it take Mario Batali or James Gandolfini (rest his soul) to tell you whence the wine should originate? Most Italian reds, with their firm acidic backbone, work well here. Bargain-wise, go for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, many fine examples of which sell for less than $10, or a Sangiovese from the same region of Abruzzo. Moving up the ladder, look for gutsy Sangiovese di Romagna from Emilia-Romagna or a Chianti from Tuscany. If you’ve got Batali’s dough, by all means spring for Brunello di Montalcino. But I’ll let you in on a bit of blasphemy: Most crisp, medium- or full-bodied reds can work, Italian or otherwise, including cabernet franc or Côtes du Rhône. - Beppi Crosariol