Baked Pasta with Sausage and Zucchini
Pasta al Forno con Salsiccie e Zucchine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Generously butter a 9 x 12 (or 9 x 11) (**Whatever the standard size is...) inch casserole pan. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs and set aside.
Place cut zucchini in a large colander. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with a plate (pressing down on the salted zucchini), weighted down with any heavy object. The object is for the salt to draw liquid out of the zucchini; the place to help squeeze it out. Let the zucchini sit for about 20 minutes.
Put onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is chopped into tiny pieces.
In a large, deep sauté pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Over medium high heat, add the chopped vegetable and pancetta mixture plus the garlic and sauté for 5 - 6 minutes.
Add the sausage. Stirring to break up the sausage well, continue to cook for 4 - 6 minutes, until cooked through.
Add the red wine. Scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan and cook for 1 - 2 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and beef stock.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. This mixture should be a thin, not a thick pasta sauce. You want more moisture as the mixture bakes later on. Set sauce aside.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook. You want the pasta to hold it’s shape.
While the pasta is cooking, rinse the salted, pressed zucchini. Place in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to absorb all moisture.
Heat 1 - 2 Tablespoons of the remaining olive oil. Over high heat, add the zucchini. Brown the zucchini pieces on all sides. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes. They should be browned and softened but not mushy. Remove and set aside. If the volume of zucchini is too much for one pan - cook it in two batches, adding a bit more olive oil, if necessary.
Drain pasta, reserving ½ - ¾ cup of the pasta water.
Remove 1 cup of pasta sauce from it’s pan. Warm the remaining sauce. Add the pasta plus reserved pasta water to the sauce in the pan and toss well. Add the zucchini and mozzarella cheese and stir well.
Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole pan. Pour the reserved sauce over the top of the mixture. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and Romano cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Place in center of the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until mixture is warmed through and mozzarella cheese is melted.
Remove the foil and broil for 1 - 2 minutes to crisp the top before serving.