There are the foods that we make when we’re feeling lazy, and for me that is undoubtedly pasta. I have a tendency to go with the most basic, and possibly the least good for me versions of pasta too that are essentially all butter and cheese. I have been known to eat the beigest of meals when I’m cooking for myself, and it’s slightly embarrassing to admit here. When you’re cooking for someone else too – in this case, the Boy – and it turns out that they aren’t as into beige as you are, it’s important to expand your horizons. Slightly.
I don’t know where I got the idea. But I decided a few weeks ago that the next time I actually cooked dinner instead of heating up a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza (which – so good!), I would try something slightly different. Maybe it’s because I’d remembered the most amazing baked ziti that I made last fall. Maybe I saw a recipe on someone’s blog and thought “it can’t possibly be as hard to do something a little more interesting.” And it turns out – the act of baking the pasta after cooking it and dousing it in sauce isn’t that much harder. I was going to be sprinkling the cheese on their anyways. Why not put it on and then bake it before I eat it?
And guys – it’s not the best recipe, but gosh darn if it isn’t one of the easiest. And successful on every front. The Boy loves it. The girls love it. I usually have enough leftovers even if all four of us eat it to have lunch the next day. I feel like I’m actually doing something with my own hands and ingredients instead of relying on what I can pull out of the freezer. It’s the kind of recipe that is easily modifiable to add whatever else will make dinner that much more delicious. I added cut up spinach, but you could easily add chicken or whatever else would taste good baked with pasta and cheese.
So if you too want to break (very slightly) out of a rut, and have a yummy warm dinner that’s great for the cooler evenings (and yields a lot of leftovers), I cannot recommend making yourself a pasta bake enough.
Basic Pasta Bake Recipe
Yield: 8 servings?
1 lb pasta (can use 12 oz if you don’t have a full box, tube shapes are best, rotini works too)
1 jar pasta sauce, 25 oz (any kind)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
**Whatever other ingredients you want to add
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions in well salted water. Drain, return to pot, adding sauce and any other ingredients you choose, mixing well so all is covered in sauce.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish, and pour in half the pasta mixture. Sprinkle the top using half the mozzarella and a small amount of parmesan. Layer the remaining pasta mixture on top, the rest of the mozzarella, and most of the remaining parmesan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the mozzarella begins to brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Details: Inspired heavily by this chicken parmesan baked ziti recipe by Gimme Some Oven