The recipe yields enough sauce and meat for 2 pounds of pasta. Serve this meal, as the Italians do, with a green salad.
Penne with Ricotta Cheese
1 lb whole grain penne pasta
1 lb Italian pork sausage, hot or sweet, cut into links
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Soft and Tender Meatballs
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/2 cup milk
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
3 (26-28-ounce) containers Italian crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the meatballs:
Combine the crushed saltines and milk in mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Mash with a fork until a smooth paste forms. Add the meat, Parmesan, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the saltine mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Use a muffin/ice scoop to form 12 meatballs. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.
For the sauce:
Combine oil and garlic in a large Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until the garlic is soft about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion softens about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Carefully place the meatballs into the sauce. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and place the Dutch Oven in the preheated oven.
Place one tablespoon olive oil il a separate baking pan and place the sausage links in the pan, turning to coat the sausages in oil. Place in the oven with the sauce. Bake until the sausages are brown, turning them over halfway through the baking time about 45 minutes. Add the sausages to the meatball/sauce mixture. Continue to bake the sauce for 15 minutes more.
For the pasta
Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven and place it on the stove, covered, while you cook the pasta. When the pasta is cooked al dente, return it to the pasta pan and add 2 cups of the tomato sauce, stir gently and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir again. Place the pasta in a pasta serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of warm ricotta cheese on top. Place some of the meatballs and sausage around the pasta and serve.