I recently got inspired by a lunch at a local diner and came up with this: baked pasta with cheese and sauce (although in Rhode Island I should really call it gravy). This may sound ridiculously simple (which is the point) but it had never occurred to me to make a version of baked pasta simple enough that it wasn’t reserved for nice dinners. Usually baked pasta to me involves ricotta (which in our case has to be homemade) and means a lot of baking. Finally it occurred to me, baked pasta could be as simple as just pasta, sauce, cheese and a toaster oven.
First cook any kind of pasta (I like penne with ridges myself) until it is done to your liking. This is where most recipes would tell you not to overcook your pasta, but who am I to tell you not to overcook it? Sure I like my pasta a little al dente but for all I know you like mooshy pasta, so I’m going to say cook it however you like it. Eat it raw if you really want to.
Once your pasta is drained mix it with a little pasta sauce. Jarred sauce is just fine but homemade would be good too if you have it around. Then top with shredded mozzarella and maybe a little Parmesan. You could even add some dried herbs and garlic powder if you felt really crazy (or if, like me, you find most store bought sauce not seasoned to your liking).
Now here is the trick for me: I’m lucky enough to have a baking dish that fits perfectly into my toaster oven so I can just use that to broil my pasta. Otherwise you’ll have to do it in your oven. I just broil it enough to heat up the sauce and brown my cheese. Again, I like some brown bits on the cheese but if you don’t that’s ok too.
Voila! You’re lunch is ready and it’s just that much more special then plain old pasta with sauce but it’s well worth it.
Here are your before and after broiling pictures. It should only take a few minutes for the cheese to get nice and toasty so you have to keep a pretty close eye on it.
P.S. Happy Winter Solstice and first night of Hanukkah!