Cheesy Baked Penne

So, initially I had a different plan for dinner this night…a copycat Wendy’s chili.  I got stuck at work, though, and by the time I went to the store and made it home, dinner would have been served at 10:00 pm if I went with the slow-cooked chili.  So, I opted for a pretty quick pasta dish instead.  (Don’t worry, I made the chili a few days later and it was delicious!  That recipe will be my next post!)

I pretty much had all the ingredients for this al forno (aka oven baked) dish.  The only thing I needed to pick up was some fresh mozzarella.  I was pretty excited when I found teeny tiny mozzarella pearls.  Look how cute!

I figured they would be perfect for this dish.  I have to save, however, that slicing up a big ball would have covered more surface area and made every bite super cheesy.  I recommend doing that when you make this dish.  I also used whole wheat pasta and a little more garlic.  (Okay, okay.  I actually doubled the garlic!)

Start by preheating your oven to 400°…

  • Cook one pound of whole wheat penne (or other short cut pasta) to al dente.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat a couple of tablespoons of EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  • Crush 4 cloves of garlic.

  • Add the garlic to the hot oil.

  • Cook until golden, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add two small cans of diced tomatoes.

  • Add a teaspoon of dried oregano.

  • Season with a ½ teaspoon each of s&p.

  • Stir and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is finished cooking.

  • Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.

  • Stir to combine and let cook for a few minutes in order to coat the pasta with the sauce.

  • Pour half of the pasta into a baking dish.

  • Top with half a container of mozzarella pearls (or slices of fresh mozzarella).

  • Sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese.

  • Top with the remaining pasta.

  • Add the rest of the mozzarella.

  • Finish with a little more Parmesan.

  • Bake until the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes.  (I should have baked mine a little bit longer, but my husband kept declaring he was starving, so I pulled it out of the oven a little early.  Thank God I didn’t go with the chili that night!  He would have died from hunger!)

Serve immediately!  Enjoy!

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Cheesy Baked Penne (serves 6-8)

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 small cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne, cooked to al dente
  • 1 container mozzarella pearls, divided
  • ½ grated Parmesan cheese, divided

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
  • Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to coat the pasta with the sauce.
  • Pour half of the pasta into a baking dish.
  • Add half of mozzarella and half of the Parmesan.
  • Add the rest of the pasta and top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  • Bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 to 15 minutes.

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