Sausage Pasta Bake

A veritable feast of bacon in all its forms, this pasta bake became a house favourite when we lived in Ireland. At the time I had access to great gourmet sausages. Cumberland sausages are great as they have different flavours. But go with what you like yourself. I have been known to swap Cumberland for Toulouse, Bratwurst for Frankfurter and even spice it up with a little Chorizo. It really depends on what’s in the house. The point is you can mix it up to your taste. However, the bacon lardons or pancetta are always in it. For the vegans in the house, I do also make this with vegetarian sausage instead. But hand on heart, the original is the best. In terms of the tomato sauce, I make mine but once again, if you are busy or don’t have time you can cheat with a jar of quality bolognese tomato sauce or Passata. It won’t have layers of flavour but will still make a nice dinner. This serves 4 without any sides or 3 little pigs in my house.😂

Ingredients (including tomato sauce):

  • 2 Cumberland pork & apple sausages
  • 1 Bratwurst – mild un-spiced
  • 175g bacon lardons or pancette cubes
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed
  • 8 chestnut mushrooms quartered
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (sauce)
  • 3 tbsp Worchester sauce or balsamic vinegar (sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Kunserva or tomato paste (sauce)
  • Chicken stock or vegetable stock (use the 400g tin from the tomatoes as a measure) (sauce)
  • 100ml red wine (sauce)
  • 400g penne pasta (spagetti or frusilli also work)
  • 100g grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon oregano & basil
  • 200ml bechamel sauce (shop bought is fine)
  • Fresh basil to serve, salt & pepper to season

Method

  • Lightly brush a deep pan with some oil and warm over medium heat before adding the sausages and bacon/pancetta. Cook until golden colour and the bacon fat has rendered down. Add in the mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes. The mushrooms will soak up the flavour. Set everything aside on some kitchen towel.
  • For your sauce: If the meat has released a lot of fat, remove about half. Leave about 2 tablespoons in the pan. In the same pan sweat off the onion for about 5 minutes over gentle heat before adding the garlic. Cook for 1 minute stirring continuously.
  • Add in the sugar and stir until dissolved before adding the Worchester sauce or balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and red wine. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes before adding the tin of chopped tomatoes. In the same tin dissolve your stock pot or cube with some boiling water and pour into the pan.
  • Pop in the bay leaf and herbs and leave to simmer for about 25 minutes until it has reduced by about half. If using a saucepan this might take slightly longer as the pan allows for quicker cooking. (NOTE – if you are using a shop-bought sauce skip the above 3 steps and just warm it up.)
  • In a large saucepan cook your pasta in salted water for no more than 5-10 minutes. It will finish cooking in the oven. If you overcook the pasta it will become mushy once you bake it.
  • Slice your sausages and add back to your tomato sauce along with the mushroom, bacon, bechamel and half the grated cheese. Stir everything together to make sure it is mixed well. Remove the bay leaf.
  • Preheat oven 180C Fan & grease a lasagne dish with butter. Drain the pasta, rinse with water to remove any excess starch.
  • Combine your pasta and the sauce together. (I find it’s easier to do this in the large pasta pot.). Check the seasoning.
  • Transfer to the baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake in your preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes. To ensure it is cooked through, I always pierce the middle with a knife, which should come out piping hot.
  • Note 1: If you like your cheese stretchy and melting, don’t put it on straight away. Leave it till about 10 minutes prior to the end of cooking. In our house, we like the pasta on top crunchy and the cheese slightly overdone.
  • Note 2: if you don’t want to do this as a bake, you can cook your pasta as normal and just add the sauce after heating it up to ensure the sausage is warmed through.
  • Note 3: This can be made in advance. Always let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes to ensure it’s cooked through after being in a fridge.

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