Pasta bakes are very easy and it's my go to dish whenever I need to make something:
1) Fast & easy
2) Ahead of time (you can make it in advance and keep it warm in the oven or even freeze it and heat it up before serving)
3) Satisfying and delicious (depending on the ingredients you chose to use, you can make it lighter for the healthy eaters or more filling for the hearty eaters).
So last night I ended up using the ingredients I already had on hand. Basically all you really need to have for any baked pasta dish is sauce, short pasta of any type and mozzarella cheese. These are pretty much the basic ingredients. Obviously this will make for a pretty plain pasta bake but it will be delicious just as well.
By the way did you know there are officially 350 different types of pasta from around the world?? Isn't that amazing?
Anyways, back to my pasta bake... these are the ingredients I used:
- Casarecce type pasta about 2 cups (again any short cut pasta is fine).
- 2 cups of plain tomato sauce
- 1 cup of water
- basil leaf
- 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup of light cooking cream
- 1/4 cup of diced speck (Italian smoked ham)
- 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
The first thing you want to do is warm up the tomato sauce and add the herbs and spices that most appeal to you. I love a spicy sauce but my other half not so much so all I added was a couple basil leaves. Also remember to bring to a boil another pot of salt water where you will be cooking the pasta.
Add 1 cup of water to the sauce in order to dilute it a bit so that the pasta will be able to cook nicely all the way through.
I then added the smoked ham which made for a more hearty sauce. I let everything cook on medium heat stirring often.
In the mean time I boiled the pasta for half of its actual cooking time. Do not let it cook for any longer than that or else it will end up too soft during the bake. Pre heat the oven to 200°c
Prep your casserole dish by covering the bottom with a ladle of your sauce. Also have on hand the mozzarella diced up or shredded.
Add about half of the pasta
I then added the mozzarella, cream and some parmesan as the first layer.
Now start the second layer. Add more sauce to the top and repeat the previous steps.
Top the casserole with a last layer of sauce and a generous serving of parmesan cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes at 200°c or until you see the top start to brown.
Yes I know, I cooked it a little too long...I got distracted watching the Bachelor :-) But I can assure you we ate every last bite!