Does anything whisper “comfort” during the chilly months (or just a bad day, really) more than a warm and hearty pasta dish that oozes a variety of creamy, melty cheeses? Isn’t it even better when it gives you a steamy tomato basil facial as you reach in to pull it out of the toasty oven?
When I come home on a super chilly day, all I crave is pulling on my adult-size onesie jammies and fluffy socks, sipping some mulled wine, and digging into a meal that’s going to warm me from the inside out.
Really, there’s nothing like diving into some hearty Italian-style cuisine after a long day, and this dish makes it so easy that you’ll be able to put it together in less time than it takes you to get even halfway through that glass of red. While it’s cooking you can even throw together your outfit for tomorrow, pack your lunch, walk the dog, and maybe even shoot off an e-mail that makes you look stellar for working from home.
If you’re a mom looking to have dinner with the hubs? Toss it in the oven before you read that bedtime story about what that mouse is going to do when given a cookie, and then retire to the dining room with this, a baguette and plenty of butter. (And maybe a little mood lighting, too?)
The bottom line is: tasty Italian-style food can take a ton of time (read: making meatballs, layering lasagna noodles, crafting a Sunday sauce, etc) but there are also easy fixes that don’t require a ton of tools and time that can still bring similar flavors to your table in almost less time than it takes to button up those onesie jammies.
PS: If you’re going for the mood lighting version of this dinner, the onesie jammies might be better saved for another night. Just sayin’…. Enjoy!
- 1 12 oz box of penne pasta
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (not drained)
- 30 oz of marinara sauce (1 full jar and ⅔ of another)
- 2 cups of frozen vegetables of choice
- ½ cup of shredded parmesan
- 2 cups part-skim shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- Crushed red pepper (optional)
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 13 x 9 pan with first jar of pasta sauce.
- Pour in pasta, vegetables and diced tomatoes.
- Add a dash of salt and pepper and dried basil (leave just a bit of basil left for the top).
- Use a large spoon or spatula to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- Add all of the parmesan and ricotta and ⅓ of the mozzarella.
- Pour remaining sauce on top, then evenly spread the sauce and cheeses through the mixture.
- Top with ⅓ of the cheese and sprinkle with remaining basil and a bit of crushed red pepper if desired.
- Cover and bake for 50 minutes.
- Top with remaining mozzarella and bake for an additional 10 minutes (or until cheese is fully melted), uncovered.
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Storage: Store up to one week in refrigerator. Freeze individual slices for quick meals on the go.
- Using the frozen vegetables and the canned tomatoes without draining adds the necessary moisture to cook the pasta. If you use fresh vegetables or drain the tomatoes, add a cup to a cup and a half of water to ensure the pasta cooks properly.
- This dish is a perfect way to use leftovers - throw in vegetables or proteins that you already have in the fridge to maximize nutrition and re-use dishes from earlier in the week!