Friday, March 30, 2012

Classic Pasta Bake

So, I love pasta. Whether it's spaghetti and marinara sauce, macaroni and cheese, ravioli, fettuccine alfredo, or lasagna, I love it all. So I found a baked pasta recipe that looked good and gave it a shot. While the recipe I went off of said there were six servings, this 13"x9" pan of dense pasta, beef, sauce, and cheese fed eight (of course, we had garlic cheese bread to go with it too).

This recipe isn't particularly difficult, but it does involve several steps and some time. And of course, there is plenty of room to add your own special flair. So preheat the oven to 400ᵒF and assemble the following ingredients.

1 (8 oz.) package uncooked pasta, any shape (I chose ziti)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 (15 oz.) containers ricotta cheese
1 jar (about 24-26 oz.) of your favorite pasta sauce
1 lb. (16 oz.) ground beef
1 (8 oz.) package shredded mozzarella cheese
desired assorted spices (I used Italian seasoning, parsley, garlic, chopped onion, salt, and pepper)

First thing's first: prepare a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil and cooking spray. Trust me, this will make clean up SO much easier.

Boil the pasta as directed on the package. I ended up using a little more than 8 oz. since I had a 16 oz. box and couldn't measure exactly. Once the pasta is done to your liking (I like mine a little more tender rather than al dente), drain off the water and return the pasta to the pot. Toss in the butter and gently stir it into the hot pasta, letting it melt and coat all of the noodles. Then add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and stir gently again, coating each noodle. I also added some spices at this point: Italian seasoning, parsley, garlic, and chopped onion. Set your pot of pasta aside for now.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet; during this process I went ahead and added some chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Drain off the fat. Return the beef to the skillet and add the pasta sauce. Combine the beef and sauce and heat on medium-low until warm and bubbly.

Spread about half of the prepared pasta in the bottom of your lined and greased pan.

Then spread one of your 15 oz. containers of ricotta cheese on top of the layer of pasta. I simply put spoonfuls of the ricotta all over the pasta and spread it out with the back of a spoon as I went along. Then sprinkle about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan on top of the ricotta layer.

Now carefully spread about half of the meat sauce over the cheese layer.

Repeat the layers with the remaining half of the prepared pasta, 15 oz. ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and meat sauce. Finish it off by sprinkling the mozzarella cheese on top along with more spices, if desired.

Wait! Before you put it in oven, get a sheet of aluminum foil and spray one side with cooking spray. Cover the baking dish with the sprayed side toward the food, then bake at 400ᵒF for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Ta-dah! It's ready! Just wait a bit for it to cool and be careful dishing it up. Enjoy with some bread, and make sure you have plenty of people to help you eat it!

Mmmmm, yummy, hot, and filling. =)

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3

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