Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta

Photo courtesy of Love Being in my Southern Kitchen
If you love pasta, basil, and cheese, then this dish is for you! I have my favorite basked pasta dish, but this is very similar to it with the addition of basil pesto. It is also budget-friendly, as this is made in my large rectangular Pyrex baking dish, which can feed a crowd of people!

Ingredients:
  • 1 sausage roll (I like to use Bob Evans Spicy sausage roll)
  • 1 pound small shell pasta (I used 14-oz penne pasta)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan in a slow stream
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small to medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes, any brand
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup store bought basil pesto sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 8-oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 13x9 casserole dish. (I used my large rectangular Pyrex baking dish.)
  2. In a medium dutch oven, brown the sausage. Once browned, remove excess oil in the pan, and place the sausage on a plate.
  3. While the sausage browns, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Add small shell pasta and cook the pasta to al dente doneness (the pasta will soak up more juice and keep on cooking after we drain it, so we need it to be a little under cooked). Drain, and let the pasta cool in the pot.
  4. In the same skillet (where you browned the sausage), add the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and chopped up onions. Cook, stirring a lot, 5-10 minutes until the onions are mushy and look cooked.
  5. Add the tomatoes, dried oregano, tomato paste, and cooked sausage to the onions and stir. When the tomatoes come to a bubble, reduce the heat under the sauce to low.
  6. Stir in basil pieces to wilt them. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to your taste.
  7. To the pasta pot, add pesto sauce, 1 cup of ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano. Stir carefully and coat the hot pasta with the pesto and cheeses.
  8.  Pour the hot tomato and basil sauce over the pasta, and transfer this to the baking dish.
  9. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano. 
  10. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil, and bake uncovered for 5-7 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

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