This is a staple in our family. Double up the recipe and freeze for a late supper. This is a very traditional recipe with no garlic or dried herbs.
For the sugo:
3 x 500g tins Italian plum tomatoes, crushed or pureed slightly
1 x whole white onion, skin removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250g Italian cured pork sausage, skin removed cut into ½ inch slices
For the Pasta al Forno:
500g penne rigate or rigatoni
125g unsalted butter
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp salt
A large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ nutmeg, grated
500 ml full fat milk
2 x 125g mozzarella, chopped
Preferably use a cast iron casserole pot with a lid that can be baked in the oven. Although, this dish can easily be cooked on a low heat on the hob too.
Heat the oil and fry the onion until golden then add the tomatoes. I always rinse the tins with cold water and fill ⅓ full and then add this water to the pot. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and add the sausage. Place the lid on the pot and bake in a hot oven 180°C for 45 minutes to an hour.
Check the seasoning and add some salt and pepper if required. After this, the sugo is cooked. If the tomatoes are good quality and the sausages cured you may not need to add any salt so wait until the end before seasoning.
Make the bechamel. Choose a medium sized saucepan and melt the butter before adding the flour. Cook for about 3 minutes until it starts to bubble, stirring constantly. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and slowly add the milk and beat with a metal whisk to stop lumps forming. When the sauce starts to thicken, add half the mozzarella then check the seasoning.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well then dress the pasta generously with the previously-made sugo and transfer to a ceramic baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over the pasta and then tear the remaining mozzarella and drop this across the top.
Bake in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes until bubbling and golden. Served with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
*This dish can also be made, cooled and then refrigerated and baked at a later date. If you do this sprinkle a few tablespoons of cold water on top of the dish before it goes into the oven.