Cavatappi al Forno with Sausage-Tomato Sauce
You will need a large pot for cooking the pasta and a 4-quart rectangular baking dish or oval gratin dish. Note: Sauce should be made in advance and can be refrigerated for a few days or even frozen for a few weeks.
- 1-1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
- 1 cup dry white wine, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing pasta
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes (or to taste)
- 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) crushed by hand (6 cups)
- 1 cup water
- 1 branch fresh basil with lots of leaves for cooking and finishing pasta (a single batch), or 1 cup packed basil leaves
- Kosher salt for pasta pot
- 1 pound dried cavatappi or penne pasta
- 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Grana Padano, divided
- 8 leaves of basil, shredded
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 (15-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
- 1 pound provola cheese, shredded, divided
- 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
Remove sausage casings and crumble meat into large bowl. Pour 1/2 cup wine over sausage; mix with fingers, breaking up any big clumps so sausage is evenly moistened.
Pour olive oil into 14-inch skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Stir in onions; cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Scatter garlic in pan; season with salt and peperoncino. When everything is sizzling, add crumbled sausage and stir together with onions. Pour in remaining 1/2 cup wine. Raise heat a bit, and cook, stirring, as wine cooks away and sausage browns, about 10 minutes.
Pour in undrained tomatoes. Use one cup water to rinse tomato cans and bowl and add to pan. Submerge basil branch in liquid; cover skillet and bring to boil. Set cover ajar; adjust heat to keep sauce bubbling steadily. Cook 1 hour or more, until sauce has developed good flavor and is reduced to consistency you like for dressing pasta (about 8 cups total). Remove and discard basil branch. Reserve 4 cups sauce, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
Fill pasta pot with salted water; add at least 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to rolling boil. Stir in cavatappi; cook at boil until al dente (about 4 minutes less than package directions).<
Drain pasta well in colander; place in big bowl. Pour in 2 cups sausage-tomato sauce; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Grana Padano and shredded basil. Toss well to dress cavatappi evenly.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Brush baking dish with butter. Pour in half of dressed pasta, spreading to fill pan bottom in even layer. Drop ricotta by spoonfuls evenly atop pasta. Scatter half of shredded provola over pasta and ricotta. Spread one cup sausage-tomato sauce on top of cheeses.
Next, arrange remaining pasta in flat, even layer. Spoon 3/4 cup tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining Grana Padano and provola. Scatter breadcrumbs over all; drizzle last bit of tomato sauce over top.
Tent baking dish with aluminum foil, arching so it doesn't touch crumb topping, and pressing it against sides of dish. Set dish in oven and bake 35 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 minutes more, until top is nicely browned and crusty. Serve hot! Makes 8 to 10 servings.