Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baked Pasta

This is our favorite weeknight--actually, any night--meal: Baked pasta. I made this recipe up myself, and when you read it, you'll be blown away that I could ever dream up something so complex and sophisticated.

I jest.

Actually, this dish is as easy as it gets, and it is my go-to meal for pretty much every occasion, including chilly Tuesday nights. I've even taken these ingredients camping with us and have cooked it in the camper. My baked pasta has never failed me, and I consistently receive compliments and requests for seconds and thirds whenever I serve it.

For those of you who know me in real life, I know what you're wondering: Is it vegan? No, it isn't. It's not even close. My love for cheese precludes any hope I might ever have of adhering to a long-term strictly vegan diet. But this dish is vegetarian. And the men in my life love it. Two out of three works for me.

Here's what you will need:
  • 1 jar of marinara or other tomato-based pasta sauce. I really, really, really like Newman's Own Sockarooni. Really.
  • 1 jar of Alfredo sauce. I use the jarred stuff in a pinch, but when I really want to spiff this recipe up, I make my own. I don't have a favorite jarred Alfredo sauce. They all kind of taste the same to me--jarred. If you know of a really good one, please mention it in the comments.
  • 1 box penne or ziti or rigatoni pasta. This is one dish where I can actually get away with using whole wheat pasta without the Mr. complaining. There are so many good flavors going on in the sauces and cheese that he barely notices the whole-wheatness of the pasta.
  • 2+ cups Grated mozzarella cheese. I lean way to the plus side.
  • Cooking spray for the pan.

Here's what you will do:
  1. Cook and drain the pasta. Be vigilant to not overcook the pasta since you'll be baking it as well.
  2. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
  3. Pour 1/2 the cooked pasta in the bottom of the pan.
  4. Pour 1/2 the Alfredo sauce over the pasta. Spread evenly with the back of a large spoon.
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 the grated mozzarella cheese onto the alfredo sauce.
  6. Pour 1/2 the tomato sauce over the cheese and spread evenly.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6.
  8. Top with a little more cheese.
  9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.
  10. Enjoy.
Sometimes, I like to add some thawed and drained frozen spinach to the pasta layer. I suppose you could add ground sausage or beef to the tomato sauce, but it really is quite hearty without the meat. In fact, for omnivorous households, this might be the perfect opportunity to introduce Meatless Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday...), and it's ideal for Lenten Fridays.

Please forgive the monochromatic nature of this photo.
Next time I'll try to select a backdrop that isn't the same color as the food.

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