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    Free Italian recipes  RECIPE TITLE " PASTA AL FORNO CON SALSICCIA E ZUCCHINE (Baked Pasta with Sausage and Zucchini) "
    recipe from: Nick Stellino's Passione Pasta, Pizza, and Panini by Nick Stellino (G.P. Putnam's Sons)

    ...for more great recipes by Nick Stellino go to our GREAT CHEFS page

    yields serves 6 time --- difficulty moderate

    Zucchini are an underappreciated vegetable, and few people know how to extract their real flavor. Try this recipe and you will never feel the same about zucchini again.


    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1/2 cup Italian-Style Bread Crumbs (page 220)
    1 pound small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 medium sweet onion
    1/2 large stalk celery, or I small stalk from the heart
    1/2 large or 1 small carrot
    3 ounces pancetta, cut into chunks, or bacon, cut into pieces
    4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
    6 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
    3/4 pound spicy Italian-style sausage, casing removed, broken up
    3/4 cup red wine
    1 3/4 cups Tomato Sauce (page 229)
    1 3/4 cups Beef Stock (page 221) 1 pound rigatoni or ziti
    4 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated
    1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese


    Preheat the oven to 350 [degrees]. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Generously butter a 9x12-inch casserole pan, and coat with half the bread crumbs.

    Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Cover with a plate (press down on the zucchini), weighted down with a heavy object. The salt will draw the liquid from the zucchini; the plate will help squeeze it out. Allow the zucchini to sit for about 20 minutes.

    Put the onion, celery, carrot, and pancetta or bacon in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is chopped into tiny pieces.

    In a large, deep sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable-pancetta mixture and the garlic, and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage, stirring to break it up further, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the Tomato Sauce and stock.

    Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You should have a thin rather than thick pasta sauce; you want it liquid, as the mixture will eventually bake. Set the sauce aside, and cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions. Do not overcook; the pasta should hold its shape.

    While the pasta is cooking, rinse the zucchini. Wrap in a clean, dry kitchen towel and squeeze out all the moisture. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the zucchini and, over high heat, brown on all sides for 3 to 4 minutes; cook in two batches, adding more oil if necessary, if the zucchini pieces are too many for one pan. They should be softened but not mushy. Remove and set aside.

    Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Remove 1 cup of the pasta sauce from its pan and warm the remainder. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the sauce in the pan and toss well. Add the zucchini and mozzarella and stir well.

    Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole pan. Pour the reserved sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs and the Romano. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in the center of the oven for about 10 minutes, until warmed through. Remove the foil, check that the mozzarella is melted, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes to crisp the top before serving.

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