I love a baked pasta dish in which all the ingredients melt together while the top is golden and crunchy. Everything can be done in advance and all you need to do at dinner time is bake the pasta, make a quick green salad and pour a glass of good red.
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
sea salt and pepper
handful fresh basil leaves
250g pork and fennel sausages, skin removed
250g fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
50g pecorino, grated
1. Place a saucepan over a low, gentle heat and pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic slices and cook gently for couple of minutes, then add the passata and a cup of water. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper and bring the sauce to a steady simmer over a medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, then add about 6 basil leaves and remove from the heat.
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt it until it tastes like the sea, then add the penne. Cook until al dente, usually 1 minute less than the instructions on the packet. Drain the penne, then toss in the sauce until well coated.
3. Take the sausage meat and roll into balls the size of marbles.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced).
5. In a baking tray large enough to hold the pasta and the sauce, spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the base. Layer half the penne on top and follow with half the sausage balls, half the mozzarella and pecorino. Repeat the layering process, leaving a little of the pecorino to garnish. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
6. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the top has formed a golden crust. Remove, garnish with basil leaves and grated pecorino, and serve.