This recipe is based on a family favorite that my grandmother would make for us when we were kids and she would watch us at her house on the weekends. My version changes very little from the original recipe and there were reasons for that. This is one of the simplest, easiest, and most comforting foods I know of and I have yet to run across someone who would turn their nose up at it.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
Pasta– One pound of spaghetti
Breakfast Sausage– 2 packages of regular breakfast sausage links, approximately 28 links total. Make sure you get plain breakfast sausage and not one of the flavored ones like maple or something, if you do this will more than likely turn out terrible.
American Cheese Singles– The exact amount of cheese you use is entirely up to you and depends entirely on how cheesy you like things. My only rule pertaining to this is don’t skimp on the cheese.
Canned Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes– Two 28 ounce cans
Basic Canned Tomato Sauce– Two 8 ounce cans
Olive Oil– just enough to thinly cover the bottom of the frying pan when browning the sausage
Fresh Garlic– Three fresh cloves
Dry Red Chili Flake– I use about a teaspoon but you can use more or less depending on how spicy you like things or whether or not small children may be eating this. If for any reason you want to leave this out it won’t mess up the final product.
Salt & Pepper– to taste
Water– about ¼ cup for deglazing the frying pan after the sausage is very brown.
Here’s How to Make It:
In a large skillet, add the olive oil and bring the pan up to medium-high heat. Add in the sausage links and cook them until they are done through and brown on the outside.
Once the sausage is cooked through, break each link into bite size pieces with a spoon. You can usually get about three pieces per link.
Peel the garlic cloves and smash them flat on the cutting board by laying them under the broad side of your chef’s knife and banging it with the heel of your hand. Add the smashed garlic and the chili flakes to the pan with the sausage pieces and cook until the garlic is softened.
The next thing we are going to want to do is get all the good tasting brown bits from the sausage unstuck from the bottom of the pan so that they will become part of our sauce. To do this we add the quarter cup of water and as it bubbles hard we use our spoon to scrape the brown bits up. This should be fairly easy as the water practically boils them off for you. (For those who may not know, this process is called deglazing and is usually done with wine or some other form of alcohol.) You can see in the picture above how golden brown the liquid in the pan is, that’s the brown bits floating and that’s flavor for our sauce.
Next add in all the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. With your spoon, break up the plum tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer stirring occasionally.
While the sauce simmers, put your pasta on to boil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pull your pasta and drain it just short of it being done. You want it a little under done as it will be baking in the sauce and will absorb moisture during cooking. If you don’t pull the pasta a little early it will become overdone and mushy.
In a large glass baking dish, combine the pasta and the sausage sauce. The sauce will still be slightly watery but it will thicken in the oven. Dot the mixture with the American cheese singles while being sure to push the cheese down into the casserole. Once you have reached your desired level of cheesiness, place the casserole into the preheated oven.
Your casserole will be done after about 30 minutes or when your casserole is bubbly and beginning to take on a little bit of browning on top. Enjoy!
If you have any questions or have anything that you’d like featured in a future post on The Renaissance Beard , don’t hesitate to contact me or leave it in the comments.