Sausage and tomato pasta bake
NUTRITION: PER SERVING
FAT: 29.8G (13.1G SATURATED)
CARBOHYDRATES: 61G (10.2G SUGARS)
400g large dried pasta shells
400g British free-range sausages, meat squeezed out (or 400g sausagemeat), rolled into 24 balls
200g mozzarella, torn
100g parmesan, grated
For the sauce
Olive oil for frying and drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp tomato purée
Pinch chilli flakes or to taste
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Glug red wine (about 50ml)
3 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
1-2 tsp caster sugar
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked
Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, then fry gently for about 8 minutes until soft (see tips). Add the tomato purée and cook for 20 seconds, stirring. Add the chilli and fennel seeds, then cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the wine and bubble for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, swirl the tins out with a little water, then add that to the pan too. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook gently for 45-60 minutes until thick, stirring now and then (see tips). Add the sugar and half the basil, some salt and pepper. Stir and taste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside, drizzled in a little oil.
While the pasta cooks, fry the meatballs in a little oil in a large flameproof casserole for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
Add the pasta to the meatballs and pour over the sauce. Scatter over most of the remaining basil and the cheeses, then bake for 25 minutes until bubbling. Stand for 5 minutes, add the last few basil leaves, then serve with salad.
Soften the onions slowly. Cook them as low and slow as you can. They should be soft and sweet.
Take your time. Bubble the sauce to reduce the liquid for at least 45 minutes. When you see the layer of watery liquid separate from the chunkier tomato sauce, give it a stir and keep reducing/simmering until the sauce has a thick consistency.
Taste! Tinned tomatoes vary greatly in flavour, texture and acidity. Taste the sauce a few times toward the end of cooking and add sugar, salt, an extra drizzle of olive oil, more fresh herbs or a splash of wine – whatever you think it needs.
The sauce is even better the next day. Make a double batch and chill for up to a week, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Reheat to a rolling boil with a little water when ready to eat.