Friday, November 16, 2012

My Ultimate Comfort Food


My ultimate comfort food is pasta, by the way. There is just nothing quite like a good bowl of spaghetti, some homemade lasagna, a baked pasta...yum. I can never get enough. I also never get over the joy of finding and trying new pasta recipes. I have my old favorites, to be sure. I guess it's the thrill of the hunt.

So, let me share some fantastic pasta recipes that I have recently discovered.

The first is a baked pasta recipe that I made for my sister-in-law just recently when she had her baby. She had posted it on her Pinterest page months before, and I squirreled it away thinking that it would be the perfect dinner to make for her after her baby came. I made a few small changes, but this recipe was to die for. I will share the original recipe and the recipe with my changes.

The second is another baked pasta recipe, but it is a recipe for baked and stuffed shells. I was drawn to this recipe because it had pepperoni in it (I hoped that might be a selling point for my two little boys). I was also intrigued because this recipe called for shredded zucchini to be mixed into the ricotta filling. My mom's garden yielded a ton of humongous zucchini this summer. I had shredded a few of them and frozen the zucchini to use later in some baked goods that I wanted to try (but haven't had the time yet...maybe for some Christmas gifts...). I was excited to use some of my zucchini for this purpose. Oh, and if you want to skip the pepperoni, you could easily, and it would still taste great. Then, both of these dinners would be vegetarian. Meat free dinners, especially the Pasta al Forno, are pretty easy on the budget.

So, without further adieu, let me share my baked pasta discoveries!

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno (original recipe)


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (14 oz) cans diced Italian plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound penne pasta
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
2/3 cup Parmesan


Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium high heat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and oregano and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, 15 min. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Toss pasta with sauce. Place half of pasta in an oiled 9x13" dish. Cover with half Parmesan and half mozzarella. Top with remaining pasta, then Parmesan and mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Source: I found this on Pinterest. It came from a blog/website called "Annie's Eats. You can find the original post here. Apparently, she got it from a book called Pasta by Dorling Kindersley that was published in 1995.

Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno (with my changes)


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion, or half of  large onion)
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 lb. penne pasta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
2/3 cup Parmesan, shredded


Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer rapidly, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta and drain. Toss pasta with sauce.

Place half of pasta in an 9x13" dish. Top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Top with remaining pasta, Parmesan, and mozzarella.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Notes: Here's a simple explanation in regards to the changes I made. I added an onion to boost the flavor because I worried that garlic alone wouldn't add enough flavor. I added minced garlic instead of fresh simply because it was faster and I didn't have the time the day I made this to peel and crush fresh garlic. I increased the amount of oregano used since I added an additional can of tomatoes (I just like tomatoes and wanted more). I used shredded mozzarella because that is what I had. This was so good, and from everything I heard, it hit the spot for my sister-in-law too.

Pepperoni Pasta Bake


2 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta (20 ounces)
1 1/4 cups grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
1 large egg, beaten
coarse salt and pepper
3 cups marinara, divided
28 jumbo pasta shells (7 ounces total), cooked according to package instructions
26 small pepperoni slices (2 ounces total)
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (3 ounces)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, zucchini, basil, and egg; season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup marinara in a 9-by-13-inc broilerproof baking dish.

Fill each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon ricotta mixture and arrange in an even layer in dish. Top with remaining 2 cups marinara, then pepperoni, and mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Heat broiler, remove foil, and broil until cheese is browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Top with additional basil and serve.

Nutrition information: Serves 4, 694 calories, 28 g fat, 39 g protein, 72 g carbs, 3 g fiber.

Source: this is a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe that I found in my October 2012 magazine. You can find it online here.

Notes:  I LOVED this. It was so good. I think the nutrition information is a little off though. If they stuffed 28 shells, that means that if this makes only four servings, each serving is a whopping 7 shells! I had three or four shells, and my husband had about 5. We served this with a salad and some homemade French bread. Yum! Good stuff! We were full and satisfied...if we had each had 7 shells, we would have needed to loosen our belts!

1 comment:

  1. Yum! I'm a fan of pepperoni in everything. You can't go wrong with it. Did the boys like it?