Monday, March 22, 2010

Food: Tomato Pasta Bake

Jonathan's parents are coming into town and I plan to make this at some point over the weekend. Actually, I think it'll be the perfect thing for Saturday dinner since we're going to an early evening play at his niece and nephew's we'll need a quick and hearty meal before the show.

I actually discovered this recipe by accident. For some reason, a couple of months ago, both Jonathan and I came home from the store (separate grocery trips) with Havarati cheese. It's not something we'd normally buy for a "dice into cubes and snack on" sort of cheese. And I don't think either one of us has ever made anything with it before. How on earth we both decided to buy it and bring it home on a whim, I have no idea. So...with two blocks of cheese in the fridge I decided I needed to find a way to use it up. A quick internet search for Havarati recipes resulted in this pasta dish. And this was more than a perfect recipe - so delish, hearty yet not too filling.

This "Tomato Pasta Bake" is more adult and less greasy than macaroni and cheese and more filling than just sauce and pasta. Yes, it's kind of crazy in the fact it uses THREE large cans of tomatoes (be sure to drain them first...I almost missed that step the first time I made it). But it's so could you resist? It also makes quite a lovely presentation even in a plain, old, glass pyrex baking dish. Add a glass of red wine and some fresh bread from the local bakery and you're good to go. Heck...even feel free to invite a few friends over for dinner. After all, what could be nicer than something that's quick, tasty, neatly presented, and even better with a bottle of wine and company?

Tomato Pasta Bake
Adapted from Epicurious

  • 6 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3, 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 T dried basil
  • 1 1/2 t crushed red pepper
  • 2 c low sodium broth or stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 14.5 oz protein enhanced, whole grain penne
  • 1 7-oz block of Havarati, grated
  • 1/3 c sliced, pitted, kalamata olives
  • 1/3 c grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c torn fresh basil
  • Heat 3 T of oil in a deep pot over medium-high (a Dutch or French Oven works great for this). Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent (5-8 minutes).
  • Mix in drained tomatoes, dried basil, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, crushing tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon (be careful not to splatter as the liquid will be very hot).
  • Add broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture resembles a chunky sauce, about 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta per directions on box, drain well and toss with 3 T of olive oil.
  • Pour pasta into pot with sauce. Mix in Havarati cheese. Toss to coat and then transfer pasta into a 13x9x2" glass baking dish. Sprinkle with olives (if desired) and then with parmesan cheese.
  • Bake pasta for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with fresh basil prior to serving.

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