It would be a lie to tell you I didn’t ooh and ahh over this recipe. I may or may not have gone photo happy and driven Michael crazy by telling him how pretty I thought this dish was. I think its beautiful. And even the leftovers have been beautiful.
And let’s be honest, few things are easier than a baked pasta.
You could absolutely play with the veggies here. Zucchini or summer squash would be great. I chose veggies I knew would fly at my house–onions, red and yellow peppers, and carrots. I think the peas are pretty much essential. They add a great sweetness and a fabulous color. Plus, the dish doesn’t taste like peas, so you just get a handy dose of vitamins without offending people who don’t live for peas. Be brave. You can do it. Embrace the peas.
You could stir in some (thawed) frozen chopped spinach or add in some mushrooms. If you’re cooking for some carnivorous-types who refuse to go meatless, I’m sure you could brown up some Italian sausage or mix in some sliced grilled chicken. I just think it’s a very satisfying meat-free recipe. And it’s good for you to go meatless sometimes.
One final note…okay two final notes.
1) Please believe me when I instruct you to undercook the pasta. It finishes cooking in the sauce and in the oven. If you overcook the pasta, it will turn mushy in the oven. And ew, people. Ew!
2) This meal freezes beautifully. If you’re going to freeze it, you can line a 9″ x 13″ or very full 11″x 7″ baking dish, assemble the dish, sprinkle on the mozzarella, then freeze it. You can even divide the dish in half–cook half now, and half later. Allow the dish to fully freeze in the oven, then you can remove the foil-wrapped pasta dish from the pan and store it in the freezer. Just add some extra minutes to your cook time when you bake it.
Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
1lb penne pasta
3c pasta sauce (homemade or storebought…if you buy storebought…try Paul Newman’s Sockarooni sauce. It’s THE BEST)
8oz mozzarella cheese, grated
2 bell peppers, sliced (I used red and yellow)
1 large onion, sliced
1/2c-3/4c carrots, sliced thinly
1/2-3/4c frozen peas (don’t thaw)
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place peppers, onion, and carrots on a baking sheet (if you want, go ahead and line it with foil). Drizzle with olive oil (don’t go overboard here, just a little drizzle). Toss veggies a bit to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. If you want a little kick, sprinkle a pinch of red pepper flakes across as well. (note: it is VERY good this way). Roast about 20 minutes, or till veggies are softened.
Meanwhile, cook pasta about 8 minutes in salted boiling water. Drain and toss with pasta sauce. Stir in roasted vegetables. Stir in frozen peas. Pour pasta mixture (it is heavy. This movement is not for pansies…although…I am a huge pansy and I could do it
all by myself. Strike the pansy note)…
Where was I? Ah yes… Pour the heavy, okay-for-pansies-to-lift pasta mixture into a 9 x 13″ or large baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or till cheese is bubbly and you can’t wait anymore.
Makes enough to serve 8. (Yet another reason to cut it in half or freeze half)