Sweet Frivolity

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Easy Weeknight Dinner: Pasta Bake.

February 27, 2017

It's Monday, and I had a very full weekend. Days like these make me want to take it easy when it comes to dinner time. If you're also look for an extraordinarily easy and delicious recipe for tonight, look no further. 

 

Reader, meet the pasta bake. This is the simplest, most versatile, least expensive, overall best weeknight dinner casserole recipe you'll ever encounter. Pasta is delicious and almost everyone likes it. You can dress it up with whatever ingredients you have on hand, and it can be flavored in an endless variety of ways. This meal is as simple as cooking pasting, combining it with other pantry staples or leftovers, and putting the dish in the oven for twenty minutes. THAT'S IT.

 

I recently learned that "al forno" just means that a dish has been baked in the oven. I suppose you could call this recipe "pasta al forno" to make it sound fancier and more Italian. 

 

Here are some ideas for a few of my favorite pasta bakes. Give them a try, and let me know what twists you like to put on the recipe.

 

 

Classic Pasta Bake

(Serves 2-3)

 

1/2 lb. short pasta (penne, rigatoni, shells, etc.)

1 jar tomato sauce, any variety

4 oz. shredded cheese (an Italian blend is great here) 

Basil

Parsley

Oregano

Garlic powder

Onion powder

 

Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Combine in a large casserole dish with the sauce and cheese. Season liberally and to taste. Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until pasta has hardened slightly and cheese is bubbling. Add a tossed salad before your main course to discourage licking the pan clean.

 

Leftover Tacos Pasta Bake

(Serves 2-3)

 

1/2 lb. short pasta (penne, rigatoni, shells)

1 jar tomato sauce, any variety

Leftover ground beef (this makes a GREAT meal the night after taco night!)

4 oz. shredded cheese (a cheddar blend or taco cheese blend is delicious with the ground beef)

Basil (if you like)

Parsley

Oregano

Garlic powder

Onion powder

 

Follow above preparation and cooking instructions. This recipe is a wonderful way to use up leftover taco beef. You can use taco cheese or even Mexican seasonings if you want to continue the Southwestern trend. Another option? Skip the jar of Italian sauce and instead use crushed tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, cumin, garlic, onion, black beans, and corn. Arriba! 

 

 

Pink Sauce Pasta Bake 

(Serves 2-3)

 

1/2 lb. short pasta (penne, rigatoni, shells, etc.)

1 jar tomato sauce, any variety (marinara or florentine is ideal)

1/2 c. Half-and-half

1/2 c. ricotta cheese 

4 oz. shredded cheese (I suggest mozzarella here)

Basil (this recipe really stands out with fresh basil)

Parsley

Oregano

Garlic powder

Onion powder

 

Combine all ingredients after pasta has cooked and bake in a large casserole dish at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. I can't emphasize enough how big an impact fresh basil has on this version of the recipe. It's amazing!!! Don't skimp on your herbs. You won't be sorry.

 

There you have it! Three variations on this extremely easy recipe. You can swap in other varieties of pasta, sauce, meat, cheese, or spices. You can add frozen broccoli or other vegetables to the casserole dish for a healthier version. This dinner can be light or heavy, classic or unique, but it's always easy and can be made with whatever you have on hand. I hope you love it as much as I do! 

 

Happy eating!

Danielle 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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