The pasta shells in this hearty dish don't get stuffed; instead, they are tossed with the sauce and hold the small pieces of meat and vegetables.
Baked Pasta Dishes
1 pound medium pasta shells
One 28-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound baked ham, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Pass the puree through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, stirring the meat and breaking it up with the side of a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree, heavy cream and oregano and season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce over moderately low heat for 10 minutes. Add the sausage and ham and simmer for 10 minutes longer.
Stir the sauce into the pasta along with the peas and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is heated through and the Parmesan is melted. Serve hot.
This baked pasta can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight. Add about 10 minutes to the baking time.
This dish can showcase a round, deep-flavored, spicy red wine. A California Zinfandel would be perfect.
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