Baked Penne with Fresh Basil
I wanted to surprise my sister-in-law with a no cook dinner tonight by making her family something. I always like when dinner shows up at my door step, so I wanted it to show up at hers. She’s an amazing woman. Her strength is incomparable to anyone I have ever met and her smile will light up a room. She is beautiful, kind and very smart. And by the time I write this, I hope she’s full too!
The best way I know to feed a crowd is on a delicious starchy food such as pasta! I love pasta. All kinds, in case you haven’t noticed. It’s filling, delicious and comforting. You can feed a crowd quickly too. One year, she made this sumptuous pasta with a vodka sauce. I was in love. I pulled out the recipe and was going to make it for her, but I don’t have vodka which could be a problem. I will post that recipe one day though. It was too good not to! Another time, she made a pasta sauce with robust flavors in a crock pot. She’s my kind of pasta gal!
I hope she loved the dish that I prepared for her family as much as my family did. It’s filled with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan. Added a little lemon to brighten the flavors and garlic gave it a great edge. I’m a cheese lover so I added lots and lots (2 cups) of mozzarella on top with an addition of more Parmesan. In my opinion, there’s nothing like freshly grated Parmesan! Well, maybe fresh mozzarella…maybe.
- 1 lb penne pasta (I used this because I love how the sauce gathers in the holes and when you bite it all jumps out. Crazy, I know.)
- 1 1/2 jars organic tomato sauce. (I always buy two, one just never seems to be enough!)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 lemon juice: freshly squeezed
- 16 oz. ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly torn basil leaves: divided
- 2 cups: shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese: divided
- salt and pepper
Step 1: Prepare pasta according to directions minus two minutes. (You don’t want over cooked pasta and then bake it!)
Step 2: Drain pasta but leave a little of the reserved water.
Step 3: In a small bowl mix ricotta, garlic, lemon, 1/4 cup basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Step 4: Combine ricotta mixture and half a jar of sauce on top of the pasta and stir well.
Step 5: Pour 1/4 of sauce on bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Add pasta mixture on top.
Step 6: Add remaining sauce on top of pasta. I use close to two jars of sauce because I love all my noodles to be covered. I’m not very big on burnt, crisp noodles.
Step 7: Top with mozzarella cheese (the whole bag!), the remaining Parmesan and basil.
I really like to add a pinch of pepper here too. I’m a pepper lover. Here, you can cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator until ready to bake later that day or the next morning. You can even section into portions and freeze for later as well. As I mentioned, I made one for my family and one for my SIL’s. It was really easy to make the production line. As soon as one pasta box was finished cooking, I started to boil water again and went for the next box. It’s a great recipe for quantity cooking!
Here it is again, if you want to get the whole picture before baking. I am still drooling over those Parmesan “balls.” Really, it’s just clumps of freshly grated Parmesan cheese but balls I call them!
It’s beautiful and delicious! It feeds a crowd and great to fill the belly! What more could you want from a pasta? Oh the finale…okay, sure.
Who stole the star of the show?