This hearty pasta dish incorporates a béchamel sauce, a white sauce made by whisking milk into a roux (a mixture of butter and flour). Stir the sauce frequently and watch it carefully so it does not burn.
Recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
- 1 1/2 pound mild Italian pork sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pound assorted mushrooms, such as cremini and shitake, brushed clean and sliced
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 8 ounces chopped spinach
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 9 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 cups milk
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, rosemary and sage
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 pounds rigatoni, cooked until tender
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Preheat an oven to 400°F.
- 2 In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown the sausage, stirring and crumbling with a fork, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- 3 In the same pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 15 minutes.
- 4 Add the sherry and cook until evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- 5 In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking until light brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and whisk until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the béchamel sauce from the heat.
- 6 Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the assorted fresh herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper until well blended.
- 7 Fold in the sausage and the mushroom mixture, then stir in the béchamel sauce and the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper.
- 8 Spoon the pasta into a 5-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pasta. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
- 9 Uncover and continue to bake until the top is golden and the cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes more. Sprinkle with the parsley. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.