My take on a recipe by Melissa Clark New York Times February 16 2020

Don’t be deterred by the number of steps: this is a quick and easy dish to prepare (about 50-60 mins)


3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 – 16 oz bulk hot or mild Italian sausage 4 Garlic cloves finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon fennel seeds coarsely crushed

Red pepper flakes divided

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes

1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt

12 oz dried, shaped pasta (Farfalle, orecchiette, elbows etc.) [I find the smaller ones easier].

8 oz fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces

8 oz whole-milk ricotta (about a cup)

1/3 – 2/3 cup grated Parmesan

¼ cup chopped basil leaves. (You can use dried basil sparingly).

Black pepper


1. Heat oven to 425F.

2. Prep the garlic and fennel seeds, then measure out the oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes and the crushed fennel seeds into a small saucer. Set aside

3. Heat oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet.

4. Crumble sausage into the oil and use a spatula to break it up into very small pieces.

5. Cook about 5-7 minutes until starting to brown.

6. Stir in the garlic, oregano, crushed fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes.

7. Cook for about 2 minutes stirring occasionally to mix.

8. Measure just over one cup of water into a measuring cup.

9. Stir in whole tomatoes with their juice and use the spatula to break them up fairly coarsely.

10. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir the mix.

11. Add 2 bay leaves and 2 teaspoons salt and stir again while bringing to a simmer.

12. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until the mix has thickened slightly.

13. Stir in the pasta.

14. Use the cup-or-so of water to rinse out the tomato cans into the mix and stir.

15. Ensure all the pasta is covered by tomato-meat mix.

16. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking.

17. Remove the bay leaves.

18. Fold in about 1/3 of the mozzarella.

19. Stir gently to mix.

20. Spoon blobs of ricotta over the surface of the mix and with the back of a teaspoon spread them out a bit.

21. Drop the remaining pieces of mozzarella over the surface.

22. Sprinkle the parmesan evenly over the top.

23. Place in center of oven and bake until the pasta is soft when tested with a fork and the cheese is bubbly and golden. (About 18-24 minutes).

24. If you want the top to be a deeper brown you can place the skillet under the broiler for 2 minutes, but be careful not to dry out the pasta. I normally don’t do this.

25. Remove from the oven and let stand for 3-4 minutes.

26. Sprinkle basil leaves over. (Sparingly if using dried basil!)

27. Grind plenty of black pepper over.

28. Sprinkle a little more red pepper flakes over, although I usually serve the red pepper separately allowing each diner to add as they see fit.

29. Serve from the skillet.

Fennel Seeds - 32mm Ring<br />
Alpharetta, GA, 01/18/2021,<br />
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-<br />
NonCommercial 4.0 International License.