I've been a lazy blogger and cook lately. This is a lazy dish that can be put together while you're working at home, and can serve at least 8 people (or cut the recipe in half). I served this with a watermelon, feta & mint salad as the appetizer, and followed it with a simple arugula salad.
You'll need (serves 8-10):
1 1/2 packages ziti pasta
2lbs spicy Italian bulk sausage (I used Molinari)
5 shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
red chile flakes
3T tomato paste
28oz can of plum tomatoes
10 roma tomatoes (this is optional, but oh so good)
1c dry red wine
1 bunch basil
1 1/2c grated mozzarella cheese
1/2c grated cheddar
1c grated parmesan/romano blend
Halve tomatoes and roasted, seasoned, in a 400 degree oven. Let cool slightly; remove skin.
Brown sausage, pouring out fat as it accumlates. Deglaze pan with wine and cook until liquid is absorbed. Remove sausage from pan. Add olive oil or reserved fat. Fry shallots, garlic and chile flakes, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Return sausage to pan. Make a well in the middle; add tomato paste and saute until it browns slightly. Stir to combine with sausage.
Add canned and roasted tomatoes. Julienne basil and add half to the pan. Cook over low heat until sauce is thick and flavorful, about 1 hour. You probably don't want to add salt because sausage tends to be salty, but add pepper to taste.
In the meantime, cook the pasta. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mornay (Bechamel+cheese) sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour. Cook, whisking, over medium heat until golden brown. Add milk slowly and cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in mozzarella and cheddar and half the parmesan. Combine 2/3 of this sauce with the finished meat sauce. Stir the rest of the parmesan into the remaining sauce and reserve.
Mix cooked pasta with the mornay/meat sauce. Pour into buttered gratin dish. Top with reserved mornay sauce.
Bake until set and top is golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. (This looks rather gooey and unphotogenic when hot, so the pictures are of cold leftovers.)