Baked Penne with Pesto
From “Quick from Scratch Pasta from Food and Wine Books” (If you can find a copy of this cookbook, snatch it up. I think it’s out of print.)
I love pasta all year round. I love a simple pasta with warmed cherry tomatoes and basil in the late summer, pasta salad with lots of fresh veggies in the spring… but when the weather turns cold, I love baked pasta. I love to scoop some up and watch the cheese stretch from the pan to my plate. I love the edges, where the cheese gets really browned. I love how it warms you up from the inside out.
Serve this with a crisp green salad and some good, crusty bread.
1 pound ziti
3 T cooking oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper, divided
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 cups grated Mozzarella cheese, divided
2/3 cups Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup store-bought or homemade pesto
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil an 8 x 13 inch baking pan (I spray with cooking spray).
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 tsp of the pepper. Remove the bay leaves.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It will be partially cooked. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the pesto and remaining 1/2 tsp pepper.
Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and the rest of the Parmesan. Bake until bubbling (YUM), about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.