This pasta bake was a hit in my house! It was a cold day, and we were all looking for something warm and comforting for dinner. It was also one of those days were none of us had eaten very much during the day, so it felt like the perfect excuse to make something a little richer for dinner. And I wanted something with CHEESE. A pasta bake seemed like the right choice!
The marinara sauce is easy with simple ingredients, yet the flavor is complex! I love the mix of the fresh and the canned tomatoes here and hope you will too. Of course, please please please freshly grate all the cheese! I promise this little bit of extra work makes a world of difference! I paired this with my Ciabatta Crisps (recipe coming soon!) and Gardein’s AMAZING lightly breaded turkey cutlets. Take a look here here. I buy the cutlets at my local Sprouts, but you can find them at Walmart, Target, or Ralph’s (Kroger) too. The pasta bake, crisps, and Gardein cutlets were a fantastic combination. This meal felt like a night out at an Italian restaurant without having to leave home. I hope you and your family enjoy this meal too!
Baked Pasta with Homemade Marinara
For the marinara:
- 1 small onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 28 oz crushed or small diced tomato
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- 3 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1 pound pasta
- 6 oz mozzarella cheese
- ¾ cup cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese
Cook the onion and garlic
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 tsp sea salt. Cook on medium heat for two minutes, then turn the heat down to medium low and cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 7-10 minutes.
Add the fresh tomato
- Add the last Tbsp of oil, then add all the cherry tomatoes. Toss so that the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and oil are all evenly distributed. Turn the heat back up to medium for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften and release their juices.
- Now turn the heat down a little bit to medium low. Let the tomatoes continue to release their juices for about 5-7 more minutes. Add the last ½ tsp sea salt.
Add the canned tomatoes
- Now add the 28oz small diced tomatoes, followed by the ground black pepper, brown sugar, parsley, and Italian seasoning. With your spoon or spatula, mix everything in the pan so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Turn up the heat to medium and bring it to a simmer. Continue to stir occasionally. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low: you want to keep the simmer going without it turning into a boil.
- Simmer on low for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until when you taste the sauce, the fresh and canned tomatoes are soft but not mushy. Turn off the heat and taste. Add more salt if necessary.
Cook the pasta
- While your sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. We want the pasta to be slightly underdone since this is a pasta bake, and it will have more time to cook in the oven. So, cook according to package instructions, minus a minute or two.
Bring it all together
- After you have cooked the pasta, drain it, and in a large bowl (or the pot you boiled the pasta in if it is large and deep, save a dish!) mix together all the sauce and the pasta.
- Oil a 13x9 inch-baking dish. Spread half of the pasta/marinara mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan. Now sprinkle half of the mozzarella on top, followed by half of the cheddar.
- Spread the rest of the pasta/marinara mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top, then the rest of the cheddar, and finally, all of the parmesan.
Bake the pasta
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
- Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve and enjoy! (: