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.

Serves 8

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.



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  • By Anna 14 Nov 2011

    I love this dish. What I love most about this is that I can freeze them in batches and just reheat or rebake when I feel lazy to cook. I’ll still have good food for the whole family even with bed weather days…;) Isn’t that cool? Thanks for the post!

  • By Joanne 16 Nov 2011

    Baked pasta, whether lasagna or baked ziti. are definitely my ultimate comfort food! That fresh hit of basil in the pesto must be perfection!

  • By Lavonna Vielmas 17 Nov 2011

    You need to participate in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I’ll suggest this site!

  • By Heather 20 Nov 2011

    This looks so good. Baked pasta is one of my favorite foods! I can’t wait to try this.



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