During the week, it can become difficult to come up with delicious meals for dinner. Sometimes people like to freeze a casserole dish in the beginning of the week and store it in the freezer until it’s ready to be baked. There are a variety of casserole options for vegetarians, so I thought I would provide you with the most basic of pasta dishes.
My pasta bake is my go-to meal when I want to make something quick and easy. I enjoy making my own sauce because I find that store-bought sauces are way too salty. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that calls for store-bought sauce, this is not the post for you!
Pasta Bake Recipe
1 box of Catelli Healthy Harvest whole grain rotini pasta (or any type of pasta you have in your pantry)
1L of passata (or 1.5 jars)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
225g marble cheese (or any good melting cheese you have)
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (if using plain, add 1 tsp each of dried oregano and basil)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese to serve
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cook the pasta to the box instructions, and don’t forget to salt. Make sure they’re al dente because you’re going to be throwing it in the oven. Drain, run cold water through it and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Toss in the onions, garlic, seasoning and hot pepper flakes, and cook until onions are translucent.
- Add the passata and cook for approximately 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. This will be based on your preference. I like a thicker sauce so I cook it for a bit longer.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add salt and pepper and then taste the sauce to see if it has the right amount of acidity and flavouring. This is where you can add more hot pepper flakes if it’s not spicy enough, or add more seasoning to give it more flavouring.
- Grate cheese when ready to assemble, as the cheese gets soft when left out for too long.
- Spread a small amount of sauce in the baking dish, then sprinkle half of the pasta over top, half of the sauce, then half of the cheese. Repeat in the same order with the other half of the ingredients. Whatever the order you choose, make sure the cheese is at the top.
- Sprinkle an even layer of the breadcrumbs over the cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
- Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
A lot of people have their own method to creating their own homemade tomato sauce, but this is one I’ve found that works for me. Alternatively, you can use tomato paste and canned tomatoes and cook that down, or you can add other spices that work with your palate. I also like to get the passata that has basil in it to in order to give it more of an Italian flare, or I’ll just add fresh basil to the sauce while it’s cooking. Yum!
In terms of alternative toppings, you can do a mix of cheeses or swap the marble for other really good melting cheeses such as mozzarella, sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack. You could also add cooked vegetables like spinach, broccoli or anything else you have around in the fridge! For those that are vegan, you can definitely use vegan cheese or opt out of the cheese altogether…but let’s be real, here. This blog is called “Let’s Get Cheesy”. 😉
If you feel that this might be a lot to take on for an evening, feel free to freeze the whole dish in the beginning of the week or freeze the sauce until you’re ready to make the rest of the dish! With just a few ingredients, you can make this whenever you’ve got a craving for some ooey gooey goodness. I like to think that this is a really healthy meal, since I’m using whole wheat pasta as opposed to white, and making my sauce from scratch as opposed to buying the ready-made sauces available at the grocery store. Having the ability to get creative and add extra ingredients, makes this a perfect versatile dish to call your own!xo