A hearty meat sauce, lots of melted cheese and pasta make this dish a crowd-pleaser. Mostaccioli, a smooth, tube-shaped pasta with angled ends, is the go-to here, but penne also works well.
Slideshow:More Pasta Recipes
In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderately high heat. Add the ground chuck, a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Wipe out the saucepan.
In the saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, crushed red pepper, ground fennel, tomatoes and their juices, basil and 2/3 cup of water. Using a slotted spoon, add the meat. Wipe out the baking dish. Partially cover the meat sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking the sauce until thickened, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt and black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the mostaccioli for about 6 minutes, until barely al dente. Drain well and stir the pasta into the meat sauce.
Spoon half of the pasta and meat sauce in the baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup each of the mozzarella and provolone and ¼ cup of the Parmesan. Spoon the remaining pasta and meat sauce over the cheeses, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and the remaining mozzarella and provolone. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake the mostaccioli until bubbling and browned, about 25 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and serve.
The assembled, unbaked mostaccioli can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.
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