It has been cold and snowy in Cincinnati, and you know what that means. Comfort food! There are a quite a few dishes that fit into this realm of culinary goodness–soups, grilled cheese, stews, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and…wait for it…pasta bake. My dad always called it goulash, so you can call it that if you’d like, though I’m pretty sure it’s not goulash.
I’ve made a couple different versions of pasta bake, always just kind of throwing things into the mix, but this time I hit the jackpot. The pesto might just be the secret ingredient that was missing before.
Oh, and while I was preparing dinner, I turned around to witness Chris’s stroke of genius–use a giant stemmed wine glass votive as…uh, well…a wine glass! Seemed like an awesome idea at first. We realized that after sipping, when the wine hits the little divot where the tea light goes, it splashes up into your face. Maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing. Yeah. After two seconds of pondering, it’s not. Just wear a bib and drink up.
1 pound rotini pasta (or any other shape)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup pesto (prepared or fresh)*
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
*Tip: See below for a quick, delicious pesto recipe. You’ll never eat prepared pesto out of a jar ever again. Okay, maybe you will because it’s easy, but seriously, this stuff is good. Make it.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 13x9x2 baking dish with vegetable spray.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan, then sauté onion until soft and translucent.
3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
4. Add tomato sauce, Italian herbs, salt, pepper and pesto to the saucepan, stir to combine, then cover and simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
5. Transfer cooked and drained pasta to the baking dish and stir in a cup of tomato sauce at a time to combine. NOTE: The amount of tomato sauce you add is up to you. If you want to add all of it, go ahead! If you’re like me and like to top the final dish with a little extra sauce, save a little in the saucepan for after baking.
6. Top with with most of the Parmesan cheese (save some for sprinkling) and breadcrumbs.
7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and breadcrumbs are browned.
8. Remove from the oven and let the dish sit for about five minutes, then serve topped with extra sauce and cheese.
Fresh Pesto Recipe
Makes one cup
What you’ll need:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Place basil and nuts in the food processor and pulse 4-6 times.
2. Add garlic and cheese, then pulse a few times more.
3. Slowly add olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is running. Stop a few times to scrape the sides of the processor bowl with a spatula.
4. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Boom. Pesto, son.