Rachael Ray's Not-sagna Pasta Toss

— -- Not-sagna Pasta Toss

Easier than lasagna, because it's not lasagna, this pasta, meat sauce, and ricotta toss-up is just as hearty and comforting as the layered Italian fave, but it's ready in a fraction of the time and with much less effort. Serve with a simple green salad dressed with oil and vinegar.

4 servings

Coarse salt

1 pound curly short-cut pasta, such as campanelle by Barilla, or cavatappi (hollow corkscrew pasta)

2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), twice around the pan

1 pound ground sirloin

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (eyeball it in your palm)

black pepper

½ teaspoon ground allspice (eyeball it in your palm)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup dry red wine, a couple of glugs

½ cup beef stock

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a couple of handfuls, plus some to pass at the table

1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente. Heads up: You will need a ladle of the starchy cooking water to help form the sauce before you drain the pasta. Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO, then the meat. Break up the meat into small bits and cook for 4 minutes to 5 minutes, or until the meat has good color to it. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and season them with salt, pepper, the allspice, and the Worcestershire sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes, deglaze the meat and onions with the red wine, cook off a minute, then stir the stock into the meat. Stir in the tomatoes and bring it to a bubble. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Place the ricotta cheese in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add a ladleful of boiling, starchy pasta water to the ricotta and stir to combine them. Add a couple of handfuls of grated Parm cheese to the ricotta and mix it in.

Drain the pasta. Toss the hot pasta with the cheeses. Add half of the thick meat sauce to the pasta bowl and toss again to combine. Tear or shred the basil and add it to the meat and pasta, then toss them again. Taste it to adjust the salt and pepper. Serve bowlfuls of Not-sagna with extra sauce on top and more grated Parm to pass at the table.

Express Lane Shopping List

1 pound ground sirloin

1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese

1 bunch fresh basil

And make sure you have the following on hand:

Coarse salt Short-cut pasta EVOO Onion Garlic Red pepper flakes Black pepper Ground allspice Worcestershire Dry red wine Beef stock Canned crushed tomatoes Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese