Region: USA, Italian-American
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
This is a classic of Neapolitan-style Italian-American cooking, a type of Sunday dish that my mom made and I was crazy about. She wouldn’t have used the Béchamel but I’ve incorporated it since it’s typically Neapolitan. The preparation starts with a soffritto, a finely chopped mixture that initiates a sauce or ragout, of onion and pancetta cooked in lard and olive oil. Mixing lard and oil is typical of the cooking of Campania. This dish will be all the better if you are able to make your own sausages, otherwise search out the very best.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 5 hours
2 tablespoons pork lard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped pancetta
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 pounds mild Italian sausages, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup Chianti wine
One 28-ounce can tomatoes, with their liquid or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Bouquet garni, consisting of 10 sprigs of parsley and 10 of thyme, tied in cheesecloth
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced or shredded2 cups Béchamel sauce
1. In a flame-proof casserole, melt the lard with the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the pancetta and onion for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook the sausages until brown, about 8 minutes.
2. Pour in the wine to de-glaze the casserole, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the casserole, then add the tomatoes and their liquid. Add the garlic, bouquet garni, and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 4 hours, uncovered.
3. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt abundantly and add the pasta. Drain when al dente. Transfer the rigatoni to a 12 x 9 x 2-inch baking casserole and toss with the sausages and sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top then spread the Béchamel sauce evenly over that and bake until the top is dappled with brown spots, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.