Now that your kitchen is fully stocked with the cooking essentials (Psst…if you don’t know what I’m talking about read this post on stocking your kitchen), we should talk recipes. One of the staples of my cooking repertoire is the pasta bake. It’s like a cross between a pasta dish, a twice-baked potato, and gumbo!! If you are looking at me like I’m crazy, I’ll explain. The base of the dish is pasta and marinara sauce. The comparison to a twice-baked potato comes from the fact that you cook all the ingredients then combine them and bake them to subtly meld the flavors. Finally, I call it a pasta gumbo because like a good Cajun gumbo you take the base ingredients of pasta and marinara, then throw whatever else you have or want into it.
I like this recipe because it’s easy, cheap, and still tasty re-heated. You can have a meat extravaganza or make it vegetarian. You can prepare it the night before and you don’t have to measure anything! Basically, it’s the Swiss Army Knife of my recipe book.
The following recipe should be taken like the Pirate Code as it’s really a set of guidelines that you are free to modify to suit your particular tastes. Bon appétit!
- Pasta such as ziti, penne, rotini, etc. Don’t use spaghetti or fetuccine. It’s a disaster in a pasta bake.
- Marinara Sauce of your choice
- Meat of your choice
- Vegetables of your Choice (I really like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
- Anything else you deem appropriate
- Boil water for pasta while chopping your vegetables. If you are using peppers or onions, you can slice, dice or julienne. Your choice.
- Cook your meat/sauté onions and garlic/steam vegetables while boiling pasta
- When done, dump everything into your mixing bowl and blend with the amount of pasta sauce you deem sufficient.
- Grease your casserole dish with oil or cooking spray. If you have neither, you don’t have to grease your casserole, just know cleaning will be a royal pain.
- Put in the oven on 350° for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes pull out of the oven, top with cheese, put back in oven until cheese melts.
- Let cool for 15 minutes, then spoon and serve. Parmesan makes a great addition!
For real cooking lessons watch this you tube video!