One of the recurring goals of Italian cuisine is to make a great tasting entrée with only the primary ingredients, with nothing extra added. This means getting the most amount of flavor from each ingredient. To accomplish this, it is important to perfect cooking techniques and select the highest quality ingredients.
In an Italian restaurant kitchen, there are many old traditional recipes that never change. If a new cook adds extra ingredients based upon personal taste, it will be noticed. I have seen Italian chefs go absolutely ballistic over a cook changing an old traditional recipe. There is no use trying to improve a traditional Italian recipe that is already perfected!
While apprenticing in Italian kitchens, I had a good habit of asking questions when in doubt, instead of asking a question after a mistake had been made. This is the healthiest attitude to have as an apprentice, because it prevents work related injuries. Asking questions to avoid mistakes prevents tough Italian chefs from kicking oven doors shut on your arm and you will see far fewer meat cleavers thrown in your direction! Nobody ever said life is easy when apprenticing!
The sauce in today's recipe is made "a la minute." This mean the sauce is made to order or it is made in a short amount of time. The only tomatoes that should be used for this sauce are imported canned Italian San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices. San Marzano Tomato juice from a can is so rich, that it literally looks like a thick puree! This breed of tomato takes very little time to cook and they are renowned as the being the best tomatoes that money can buy.
*This entire recipe yields 1 hearty entrée!
Place a 6 ounce Italian sausage on a roasting pan.
Roast the sausage in a 325ºF oven till it is fully cooked.
Allow the sausage to cool.
Cut the baked Italian sausage into thick slices and set them aside.
Cook 1 portion of rotelle pasta in boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
Cool the pasta under cold running water.
Drain the water off of the pasta.
Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil so it does not stick together.
Set the pasta aside.
Rotelle Casserole with Sausage and Portobello:
Step 1: Place 1 1/3 cups of imported Italian canned peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.
Squeeze and crush the tomatoes by hand.
Set the tomatoes aside.
Step 2: Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Add 3 minced cloves of garlic.
Sauté the garlic till it turns a golden color.
Step 3: Add 3 small portobello mushrooms that are cut into thick slices. (About 1/3 cup)
Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender.
Step 4: Add the reserved sliced sausage.
Sauté the ingredients till the mushrooms and sausage are lightly browned.
Step 5: Add 2 tablespoons of dry red wine.
Add the reserved hand crushed tomatoes and their juices to the pan.
Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Add 2 pinches of basil.
Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
Add 1 small pinch of ground fennel seed.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 6: Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while stirring.
Step 7: Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Gently simmer and reduce the sauce till it is a medium thin consistency. (This only takes a few minutes.)
Step 8: Add the reserved al dente cooked rotelle pasta to the sauce.
Toss the sauce and pasta together.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Step 9: Select a single portion shallow casserole dish that is about 7" wide.
Spoon about half of the pasta mixture into the casserole dish.
Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese over the pasta.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the pasta.
Step 10: Place a second layer of the remaining pasta mixture on top of the pasta that is already in the casserole dish.
Try to arrange a few pieces of the sausage and mushrooms on the surface of the pasta.
Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese on the pasta.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the pasta.
Step 11: Place the casserole dish in a 350ºF degree oven.
Bake the pasta till it piping hot and the cheese melts. (Try not to brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!)
Step 12: Place the casserole on a doily lined serving platter.
Sprinkle a little bit of fine chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
Garnish the pasta with a couple of Italian Parsley sprigs.
This baked "wagon wheel pasta" is easy to make and it tastes great!