Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Italian Night - Pasta Bake!

We had some friends come over last Friday night for dinner, and they observe Lent, so no meat!! At first when she told me, I was like, oh no... what will I make? My go-to is usually some sort of chicken. But then I was like, oh, wait... Italian food! My friend confirmed that they do eat pizza and pasta as long as there is no meat in it, so I was set and ready to build a menu around Italian food. Or rather, my Americanized version of Italian food. I am not Italian, and my Italian friends would probably gag at the thought of store bought sauce and packaged pasta. But I love it!

I was also really excited to finally try out the bunny shaped pasta my dad got for me. I love bunnies - and collect figures of them, so they are all over my house, much to my husband's dismay.

So when someone in my dad's office had a kid selling all kinds of specialty foods, he figured I'd love the tri-colored bunny pasta - and I did. I decided these people coming over would be the perfect excuse to use it, since they were coming over with a 2 and a half year old.

I wanted to do some sort of bake. I had a can of Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes in the house - part of my collection of "why do I have this food, I don't want to waste it so I need to find something to use it in." So I knew the tomatoes had to be used. We also had a bunch of different cheese - from ricotta to Parmesan. So an idea formed in my mind.

This recipe is my own, but it is so basic that I bet a million people have made something like this already! But I really enjoyed it, and my guests said it was good (so hopefully they meant it!)

The only thing I would change is maybe adding some more spices or crushed red pepper flakes. My husband and I like spice, but I think my friends are more basic eaters, so I kept it relatively tame - just a little Italian seasoning.

My husband also felt it needed more regular sauce, but he LOVES sauce and too much hurts my stomach. So feel free to ladle extra globs of sauce throughout the dish too!

So here is my pasta bake!


1 (10 oz-12 oz) package of pasta (I used my pasta with personality!)
1/2 can (28 oz) Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
tomato sauce of your choosing
Italian Seasoning


So, first I cooked the pasta per instructions on the package, drained it and set it aside.

Then, I poured some sauce in a pot and simmered it with the ricotta cheese, tomatoes and peas, until it was well mixed together.

I then too my casserole pan (about 9 x 13) and did a light greasing of vegetable shortening around the bottom and sides to keep anything from sticking. Then I poured a small layer of my sauce/tomato/cheese mixture on the bottom.

A layer of pasta followed, then by another layer of my sauce mixture. I did this another time as well.

On my top layer of the pasta, I scattered the Parmesan cheese, then one last layer of my sauce mixture, and then a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. I sprinkled some Italian Seasoning over the very top.

I popped my mixture into a 375 degree F pre-heated oven and baked it for about 35 minutes.


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