Warning, this might be my new go-to winter comfort food!
There are a couple ways to tailor this dish specifically to your tastes, or change it up every time to keep the dish feeling fresh if it becomes a staple in your house. First, you get to pick your pasta. The original recipe used spaghetti but I went with penne since I knew I wanted to bake it (ridged pastas do best in the oven). The fun part comes next: you get to pick a wine. My rule for cooking with wine is if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Choose a wine that will pair well with the finished dish so you can enjoy a glass with dinner- I love Sangiovese with hearty tomato-based pasta sauces so I chose the Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso.
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Before you pop the dish in the oven you have to make a decision on toppings. Or, if you’re like me and can’t decide, go with a little of everything. Which in this case was shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and breadcrumbs. Whether you go with mozzarella or a parmesan/breadcrumb mixture will depend on whether you like baked pasta dishes that are over-the-top cheesy and soft or ones with a little crunch. Mine was the perfect combination of both!
- 2 Tbsp EVOO
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Pinch of salt
- 16 oz mixed mushrooms
- 2 oz tomato paste
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- ½ cup dry red wine
- ¾ cup canned tomato sauce
- 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- ¾ lb pasta of choice (I used penne)
- Mozzarella, shredded (optional)
- Breadcrumbs (optional)
- Grated parmesan (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350. Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch Oven or saucepan. Once hot, add the garlic, celery and carrot and cook for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add the butter, mushrooms and a few pinches of sea salt. Stir until the mushrooms cook down and most of their water has cooked out, about 6 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, milk and wine. Cook for another 15 minutes to reduce, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato sauce, herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low. The consistency should be saucy but not soupy.
- Cook pasta until it is barely al dente- you don't want it to become mushy in the oven. Drain and combine with sauce. Transfer to a 9x9 baking dish (no need to transfer if you used a Dutch oven). Sprinkle generously with mozzarella, breadcrumbs, and/or grated parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, then stick under the broiler for no more than 4 minutes, removing the dish when the top layer turns golden brown.