Ingredients

3/4 pound vermicelli pasta or thin spaghetti

1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (removed from casings)

1/4 pound shiitake or cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups

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2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cups (24 ounces) marinara or meatless tomato sauce, homemade or store bought

1 1/2 cups water

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the casserole dish

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Method

1- Heat salted water for the pasta

Put a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. Add salt to the water, about 2 tablespoons of salt for 4 quarts of water. While the pasta water is heating, continue with the next steps.

2 – Cook the sausage

Break up the sausage into clumps into a large sauté pan. Turn the heat on, to medium. Slowly cook the sausage, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces as it cooks. The slow cooking will help render the fat. Cook until the sausage is cooked through, no longer pink anywhere.

Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan (not into your sink or you may clog it!)

3 – Cook the onions, mushrooms, and spices

Add the chopped onions and mushrooms to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent and the mushrooms have given up some of their liquid.

Add the minced garlic and red chili pepper flakes, and cook a minute more.

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4 – Simmer the marinara, sausage, and seasonings

Add the marinara sauce and the 1 1/2 cups of water to the pan with the onions and mushrooms. Add the sausage back to the pan. Add the Italian seasoning and chopped parsley.

Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to a very low simmer on the lowest setting on your stovetop. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or so while you make the pasta.

5 – Cook and drain the pasta

By this time your pasta water should be boiling. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil, for 5 to 6 minutes, al dente.

Note that the pasta will continue to cook and absorb some of the sauce when it is in the casserole dish in the oven, so the pasta should be al dente. When ready, drain the pasta and rinse in cold water.

6 – Toss with olive oil, then eggs

Place the cooled pasta in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, then the Parmesan, then 2 beaten eggs. It’s easiest to do this with your (clean) hands.

7 – Preheat oven and prepare casserole pan

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Rub the inside of a 9×13 inch casserole dish (a Pyrex dish works great) with olive oil.

8 – Layer sauce and pasta in casserole dish

Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.

Place half of the pasta in an even layer in the casserole dish. Cover with half of the sauce.

9 – Add the cheeses and layer again

Dot the sauce with all of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle half of the Mozzarella over the ricotta layer.

Layer again with the remaining pasta, the remaining sauce, and the remaining mozzarella.

10 – Bake

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Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 350°F. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

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