This Baked Pasta Shells dish was adapted from "Ziti al Forno (Baked Ziti)" which is in one of my favorite Italian cookbooks: Alfred Lepore's Ferrara's Little Italian Cookbook. I have probably had this book for 30 years, and I've loved every recipe I've made from it.
Chopped six mushrooms, 1/2 red bell pepper and two medium onions.
Peeled and diced three tomatoes which were added to four cans diced tomatoes (drained). [So long as you have about six cups of tomatoes, you can use whatever combination you prefer. However, here we used more like 7 cups.]
Skinned eight Italian sausage links (4 mild and 4 hot) and placed in 5 quart sauce pan with chopped onions. Cooked for 10 minutes.
Added 1 cup water, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and 1 teaspoon each of dried basil and sage.
Simmered uncovered over low heat for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring every ten minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Parboil 1 lb. medium shell pasta. [To parboil: add the one 1 lb. pasta to large pot containing boiling water. Allow to cook for 2 minutes. Drain]
While the pasta is parboiling, pour the simmering sausage and vegetables into a 6 quart casserole dish or oven-safe saute pan (use one that has a lid).
Add 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, very finely shredded as well as 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Mix everything well.
Add parboiled pasta and mix again. Then top mixture with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Cover casserole dish/saute pan and put in oven; cook for 15 minutes.
[Get out oven mitts and use them. Don't burn yourself like I did.]
Remove cover from casserole dish/saute pan, put back in oven and cook until cheese is bubbly (approximately 10 minutes).
We served our Baked Pasta Shells with some Rosemary Dinner Rolls we bought at the Farmer's Market.
The rolls had been cut in half, basted on top with extra virgin olive oil then topped with a spoonful of chopped garlic and some Parmesan cheese. Five minutes before the Baked Pasta Shells were done, the rolls went into the oven on the lower rack. They were removed about five minutes after the pasta was, and dinner was served.