Rigatoni with Italian Sausage
Rigatoni with Sausage Sauce
When I was growing up, holiday meals throughout the year always included a pasta dish. Most often it was spaghetti but with ham it was almost always rigatoni. If you’re looking for another side dish for your holiday spread, baked pastas are great to serve along side any roasted meat and an economical way to feed a crowd.
This is our family’s preferred rigatoni dish. Don’t let the short list of ingredients in this recipe fool you, the sauce is very flavorful. Use the very best Italian sausage you can find, even if it means a trip to an Italian market. In this recipe it matters. No additional herbs, salt or seasonings (other than garlic) will be needed if you are using a good Italian sausage. The tomato sauce is very important as well. Use a plain tomato sauce (not one that is pre-seasoned with basil or Italian seasonings). I prefer Hunts because it has no added sugar; Italian pasta sauces are no place for corn syrup! The barely discernable sweetness in this sauce comes from cream sherry. I use an inexpensive brand of cream sherry, no need to use an expensive bottle that’s better saved for drinking. Red wine can be substituted for the cream sherry but the final sauce will have a different color, a little more acidity and lack the subtle, nutty flavor that goes well with Italian sausage.
The dish travels well and would be a terrific dish to take to a party if you need to take a covered dish. The sauce can be made several days in advance, refrigerated and combined with the cooked pasta before baking when needed. This recipe will feed 8-10 people as a side dish. (6-8 people as a main course)
1 ½ lbs mild Italian sausage
4 large cloves garlic finely minced
1 29 oz can plain tomato sauce (I prefer Hunts)
1 14..54 oz can crushed tomatoes ( I prefer Muir Glen Fire Roasted)
2 cups cream (sweet) sherry
1 lb box rigatoni
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Place the sauce in a Dutch oven over medium high heat (remove sausage from the casing if link sausage was purchased). Roughly break the sausage meat up leaving larger chunks. Try not to break the meat up too small. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring to cook evenly until the sausage begins to brown. Add the minced garlic and cook until it becomes translucent about 5 minutes.
Add the sherry, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally until the sherry has reduced and nearly evaporated completely. Lower the heat to medium, add the tomato sauce and the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta or it will break apart into little pieces. Drain, and return to the pot.
Add about half of the sauce to the warm rigatoni and gently stir to coat the pasta and let cool completely. When cool pour into a 9 x 12 baking dish, cover with the remaining sauce. At this point the dish can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 24 hours before baking if desired.
To bake, cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven to hear till just heated through, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and serve.