I found a recipe over at Polywig.com (site no longer exists) while doing my daily browse through food-photo sites. The photos made it so enticing with all of it’s vegetables and melted cheesy goodness… it instantly went onto my “to cook” list.
This week I was in the mood for a hearty pasta dish so I pulled this one from the list. It’s pretty tasty and I’ve been eating it happily for the past couple of days but it’s not exactly mind blowing (not like the Asian Sticky Wings or anything). I’d probably rate the recipe a 7 out of 10 but I still wanted to post it because the recipe has good bones. You could add any number of things to transform it into a truly spectacular dish. I might, for instance, add a can of tomato sauce next time for a little more saucy tomato punch. If you’re into canned “cream of” soups, that would act as a great binder and bring everything together nicely too.
Oh, and BTW, Whole Milk mozzarella is absolutely crucial. Most mozzarella that you see in the store is part skim and truly has only part of the flavor as a result. Whole milk mozzarella is usually packaged in a square block, not a long rectangle like most cheese blocks. Don’t be tempted to substitute.
Veggie Pasta Bake
Veggie Pasta Bake
- 1 lb macaroni ($1.12)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.21)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.06)
- 1 medium onion ($0.36)
- 8 oz button mushrooms ($1.98)
- 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes ($0.86)
- 10 oz pkg frozen spinach ($0.96)
- 16 oz whole milk mozzarella ($3.22)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ($0.47)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs ($0.18)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes ($0.05)
- to taste salt and pepper ($0.05)
- Boil a large pot of water and cook the macaroni noodles according to the package directions (boil for 10-15 minutes or until al dente). Drain and set aside until ready to use.
- Chop the onion and mince the garlic cloves. Cook both in a large skillet in 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until soft (about 5 min.). Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they are soft and brown in color (a dash of salt will help).
- Preheat the oven to 350. Add the undrained can of tomatoes and the thawed package of spinach to the skillet. I did not drain either one so that the juices would add more flavor. Heat all of the vegetables through then season to taste with salt, fresh ground pepper, nutmeg, cayenne and red pepper flakes (or whatever seasonings you like).
- Stir the cooked vegetables into the pasta (I used the original pasta pot as it was the only thing large enough to hold everything). Dice the mozzarella into small chunks. Combine the parmesan and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add the mozzarella and parmesan mixture to the pasta and stir until everything is evenly combined.
- Coat a large glass baking dish with non-stick spray and transfer the pasta mixture into it. Cover the dish with foil (to keep the top from drying) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese has fully melted.
Step By Step Photos
Cook the pasta (boil water, add pasta, boil ’till soft), drain and reserve until ready to assemble the casserole.
This recipe starts with onion, garlic and olive oil… as do many delicious recipes. Cook ’em till they are soft.
Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until they are soft, brown and have released their juices (a dash of salt helps this along).
Add the can of tomatoes and the thawed spinach. I didn’t bother to drain either because I wanted all of the flavor they had to offer.
Mix the veggies together and heat through. Is this not a gorgeous mix of vegetables? Quite flavorful too!
Stir the cooked veggies into the pasta. The juices from the vegetables will help loosen up the pasta if it has gotten stuck together.
Dice the mozzarella up into small pieces. The smaller the pieces, the more evenly distributed the cheese will be throughout the casserole.
Mix together the parmesan and bread crumbs in a separate bowl then add them to the pasta along with the mozzarella.
Stir it all up and do everything you can not to dive into the pot face first… because it looks that delicious.
Pour the whole mix into a well oiled baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cover with foil to keep the pasta on top from drying out.
Eat and enjoy.