Living in Brooklyn, there is no shortage of Italian restaurants. In fact, in our neighborhood, there are five Italian restaurants within a few blocks of our apartment. While most of them are wonderful, each serving a different rendition of their famous sauce and pages of pasta, these days it is easier to dine at home than try to go out to dinner with a four-month-old. While most of these restaurants offer delivery, I firmly believe that there are few cuisines that lend themselves to delivery. Delicious Italian food is not one of them. The pasta gets mushy and soft from all the liquid and moisture and the garlic toast is no longer warm and crunchy. Luckily, for every Italian restaurant we have in the neighborhood, we also have Italian markets. These small, independently owned markets are packed with fresh cheeses, sauces, pasta and meats. When we are craving Italian, we will make a quick stop to pick up ingredients and whip something up at home instead of going out or ordering.
This recipe is fore those evenings where you’re craving a homemade dinner but you just don’t have the time or energy. Whether it is that the day’s demands have left you less than energized to step foot in the kitchen or that your evening routine of bathtime and bottle service for your little one allows you no time to actually prepare dinner, today’s recipe is one that even you can make and enjoy. You will see that I recommend fresh ingredients if you live somewhere that allows you to buy fresh versus packaged. But, regardless whether your ingredients are bought in a large supermarket, Amazon Fresh or in a local Italian market, your dish will be delicious.
This dish comes together in no time due in part that you don’t have to brown meat or dice vegetables. In fact, you could make the dish ahead of time if that works best for your schedule then just put it in the oven or broiler to reheat it for dinner. The gooey bites of cheese and fresh flavors make it a crowd pleaser even though it is so simple. In fact, I think this dish is such a winner due in part to its simplicity. It pairs perfectly with a salad and a large glass of red wine because by Thursday, isn’t that what we all want?
Easy Baked Pasta
- 12 ounces pasta (fresh if possible)
- 1 1/2 cup diced, fresh mozzarella or 1 cup shredded
- 1 cup Marinara sauce, fresh if possible
- 1/4 cup shredded, packed basil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
- Cook pasta until al dente.
- While pasta is cooking, shred basil into thin ribbons and set aside.
- Bring marinara sauce to simmer over low heat.
- When pasta reaches al dente, drain pasta and transfer to cast iron pan or oven-proof casserole dish.
- Combine sauce, mozzarella, salt, and pepper with pasta in the pan and toss gently.
- Place pan in oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until mozzarella begins to bubble.
- Remove pan from oven, lightly toss in shredded basil, top with grated parmesan and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve warm and enjoy.