Friday, April 13, 2012

Baked Penne

I've recently discovered that I love making foods that take no time to prepare. Who doesn't? Sometimes you get so busy that the last thing you want to do is wait an additional hour (or two) for chicken to marinate or a large roast to be cooked all the way through.

Which is why anytime I'm in the mood for a fast and tasty meal (and also something my daughter will eat, since she turns up her nose at most foods these days) I turn to Italian dishes. One particularly easy recipe is a baked penne, which follows the same format as baked ziti, only with different noodles. What I love about this recipe is how much better it tastes than the usual pasta, with virtually no effort! It's a pop it in the oven kind of meal, which I am always a huge fan of. Any meal that makes less dishes is a meal I want to make! I think moms everywhere will agree with me on that.

The thing I love in particular about this meal is the ricotta cheese.The way it melts in with the sauce and has the perfect light fluffy texture with a hint of delicious flavor, not too overpowering but just right. It's reminiscent of my favorite Baked ziti from Antoneta's that I used to order many moons ago. This perfect dish of pasta covered in saucy ricotta, then topped with  melted mozzarella and served with garlic knots, (something I've been meaning to get around to making). Who can honestly say no to that?

Baked Penne
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger's Four cheese baked penne
  •  8 oz penne pasta
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 26 oz pasta sauce, store-bought or homemade (preferably made the day before)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil 4 cups of salted water. Cook your penne al dente (with a bite)according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat your sauce in a large stir fry pan over medium heat. Toss in your penne along with 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. (reserve the rest for the top) Turn off heat.In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, herbs de provence, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to the pasta/sauce mixture and stir to combine. Mix in 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Coat a 7x11 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the penne mixture and top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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