Baked Ziti in a Mornay Sauce with Italian Sausage & Fennel
3 T Butter
3 T Flour
2 1/2 Cups Milk
Freshly Ground White Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg
6 Oz. Parmigianino-Reggiano Cheese. Grated
2 T Olive Oil
1 Large Fennel Bulb, Cored & Thinly Sliced
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Lb. Hot Italian Sausage Links, Cut Into 1/2 Pieces
1 Lb. Ziti Pasta, Cooked Al Dente
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil, Chiffonaded
In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour & cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, 1/2 cup at a time. Season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Set aside & keep warm.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot add the fennel. Season with salt & papper. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft. add the sausage & continue to saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, sausage mixture & Mornay sauce. Mix well. Pour into a greased 2 quart oval baking dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese & place in the oven on the top rack. Bake until the top is gold brown & bubbly, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven & cool slightly. Spoon onto serving plates & garnish with fresh basil.