So, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adore pasta. I seriously could eat the stuff daily. Because of this, we have something ‘italian’ at least once a week and weeks we have pizza I guess you could say we have it twice. I went through a ‘phase’ at some point during my adolescence when I HATED red sauce. Not sure what caused it but one day I tried it again and I didn’t hate it. Slowly the ‘non-hate’ turned to ‘like’ and that turned to love! I LOVE me some spaghetti! BUT, spaghetti and small children don’t exactly mesh well. So, being the italian food lover I am I have found that using short pasta (penne, rotini, bow tie, etc) is much more manageable for the little ones. AKA, they eat it and most of it actually hits their mouth and not the floor. The best way to eat short pasta (at least in my book) is some form of baked pasta.
Now, I don’t have a ‘recipe’ for this, I actually think I probably make it a little different every time. I just check out the kitchen and pantry, see what I have and go with that. I did write down how I did it this time, which is my ‘base’ recipe for any type of baked pasta. I definitely play with it though, I’ve layered it with different cheeses almost like a lasagna. I’ve used 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 sausage. I’ve even replaced some of the spaghetti sauce with pizza sauce, added pepperoni and called it “Pizza Bake.” I really don’t think there is any shortage of what you can do with this base recipe. But in the end, they’re all just baked pasta. So, I’ll give you my ‘base’ and you have some fun with it!!! I start with the basics…
See, I wrote down the recipe just for you! 😉 This is about as easy as it gets. You need everything pictured plus 2lbs of ground beef, salt, pepper, and oregano. Start by cooking the pasta to al dente (you want it a little firm because of going into the oven, you don’t want mushy pasta), drain it and set it aside. While that’s going I usually slice up my onion and have it ready to go. I put the pot back on the heat and cook the onions adding the garlic for the last few minutes. Once the onions are well on their way I add in the meat, season it with salt, pepper (I use crushed red) and oregano and brown it. Next, I add in the spaghetti sauce and tomato paste. I usually get that pretty warm before the next step because if the sauce mixture is warm it can spend less time in the oven. Then you toss in the pasta, stir it up, top it with cheese and get it into the oven!
Now, being that I learned to cook for an army it’s difficult for me to make less. So, I’ve started making the amount my mom would have when cooking for the small army she used to feed but instead of putting it into a 13X9 pan, I use two 8X8s and I freeze one. I was hesitant to try this because I don’t like food once it’s been re-heated from a frozen state. BUT, the way around it is to NOT bake the one you’re going to freeze! I assemble two separate pans and one goes into the oven and the other gets covered and put right into the freezer. Then later, when I’m ready to use it, I let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then just bake it like I would normally! It tastes like I just made it! So, I did that this time!
I used one of my nifty pyrex containers with the lids (I do double cover it to make sure we don’t get freezer burn which is also a good place to put the directions for baking!) and when I put the one pan into the oven, this one went into the freezer! Yay for planning ahead!
After about 30 minutes in the oven, you have this!
YUM!!! It is very tasty but, like I said, I’m biased. Because my husband has certain rules about pasta (including a limit of once a week) we always have some form of garlic ‘bread’ with it. Sometimes it’s just toast, today I took a can of biscuits and rolled them out like bread sticks, baked them following the directions on the can and hit them with some butter, garlic salt and parmesan cheese fresh out of the oven. So, this was my plate tonight!
It was delicious, as usual! Be sure to let me know if you have any tricks or ways of shaking it up! I’d love to try something new!!!
1 (16oz) Box of Short Pasta (Rotini, Penne, etc)
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2/3 cloves garlic (I use 3 because I like a lot of garlic)
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
2 (24oz) jars spaghetti sauce
Oregano, salt, pepper to taste
8oz mozzarella cheese
1. Cook pasta to al dente, drain and set aside.
2. Saute onion and garlic, add hamburger, season with salt, pepper, and oregano and cook til no longer pink.
3. Add spaghetti sauce and tomato paste and heat til warm.
4. Add cooked pasta and stir.
5. Pour mixture into greased 9X13 or two 8X8 pans and top with shredded cheese.
6. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover and bake 10 minutes more.
7. To freeze, cover and place in freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to use, thaw in refrigerator over night. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.