Baked Penne

So my son does this very cute thing lately that is also slightly problematic.

Whenever he’s eating, he wants me to be eating, too. And he indicates this by actually pushing food into my mouth and saying “EAT IT, mama, EAT IT.” It’s a nice impulse – sharing, et cetera – but the problem arises because he wants me to be physically consuming food at all seconds during which he is consuming food. 

And he eats at the speed of…well, a two-year-old. And I, unfortunately, have developed the habit of inhaling my food like a Dyson vacuum – no pausing for things like sitting down or chewing – because when you have a small child this is what you have to do if you ever want to eat.

So what this means is that I finish my dinner about a year before my son finishes his. But does he want me to stop eating?! He does not. Which means a second helping, which I then finish during the amount of time it takes him to maneuver a single bite into his mouth.

More helpings.

But, as it turns out, being directed to eat as much of this pasta as possible isn’t an especially bad thing.

It is SO GOOD.

(Not good for you, no no no, but so good.)

baked penne cheese

I’ll say it again: SO GOOD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 8.56.23 AM

What You Need:

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped (leave some pieces a little larger)

1 24-oz can tomato sauce

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp sugar

1 box penne (or pasta of choice)

1 15-oz tub of whole-milk ricotta

1 7 oz bag shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmigiana

1 egg

homemade tomato sauce

What You Do:

1. Preheat the oven to 375F and put a large pot of water up to boil (for the pasta).

2. Now, make the sauce. I’m super-picky about the sauce that goes in my baked penne – I want it to be tomato-y, meatless (although you can certainly add ground meat to this if you want), and a little bit sweet. In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is just translucent, then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, and a little salt. Cook over med-high heat until it begins to bubble, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

3. Your water should be boiling by now. Throw the pasta in.

baked penne ingredients

4. In a large bowl (you’re putting the pasta into this bowl in a few minutes as well, so pick the largest one you have), mix together the ricotta, half of the mozzarella (set the other half aside for later), and the parmigiana (leave about two tablespoons aside for later).

5. When the pasta is done, immediately strain it and rinse it under cool water to stop it from cooking (since you’re putting this whole thing in the oven in a few minutes, you don’t want it to get overcooked and mushy).

mixing in sauce

6. Add the pasta and half of your sauce to the bowl of cheese and egg. Mix together lightly.

assembling baked penne

7. Now construct the dish (I got this layering idea from The Pioneer Woman, and it makes a big difference in the cheesiness factor…which is really the whole point of this dish): pour half the pasta into a large baking or casserole dish, then pour over a couple of ladles of sauce. Sprinkle over some of your reserved mozzarella and parmigiana.

baked pasta

8. Add the rest of the pasta, the rest of the sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella and parmigiana.

9. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

baked ziti

I mean…seriously. That is a good pasta dish.

homemade baked penne

Here is one of my many, many (many) bites.

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