If you want legendary-tasting pasta but don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking it, here’s a trick to give you the best of both worlds.
When the winter chills get you down, make a big batch of baked pasta with tomato and cheese yourself. If you’re worried about dirtying too many dishes – one pan for boiling, one pan for making gravy, then another to use as a baking dish – all of this is pointless. It only takes one dish to slowly cook your pasta in a milk bath.
If you regularly cook pasta for yourself and your family, you are wasting a lot of water. Well, it turns out there’s a very practical reason to save some – helping the environment is just a bonus.
It’s quite rare if I cook something the same way twice. This is especially true with pasta sauce, as it is adaptable by nature. The other night I was cooking a very basic spaghetti dinner for myself and a friend, just because I found a can of tomatoes that I didn’t know I had.
While I was tasting and tweaking, I remembered that I had about half a cup of the spicy nduja-like spread (a kind of spicy pork salami spread) that I had made earlier in the week. I quickly added it to the sauce and to my surprise it ended up being pretty darn good.
Yes, I know what I said, and I know you have questions. Why not water? Because water doesn’t add the richness that milk does.
Will my sauce be all white and milky? It won’t be. Instead, the dry pasta will soak up the moisture and the dairy will combine with the canned tomatoes and cheese (which, yes, are also dairy) to create a super rich, yet still tomato sauce.
Besides the pasta and milk, you’ll need whole peeled tomatoes, about 12 ounces of cooked meat (you can even use this pepperoni spread, but things might get a little greasy), a bunch of cheese and seasonings that you like. None of this is meant to look fancy – it’s a bunch of cheesy carbs turned into a worthy dish to give you the ultimate comfort.
How to make easy pasta
- 200 grams of dried tubular pasta, such as ziti or penne
- 1 can of peeled tomatoes
- 300 grams of cooked sausage, seasoned ground beef, or any other type of protein you’d like to add
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- Fresh basil (optional), cut into ribbons
- Add the pasta to a large saucepan (at least 9×9).
- Open the can of tomatoes. Stick a pair of clean kitchen scissors directly into the box and cut, cut, cut until all of your canned tomatoes are chopped.
- Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pasta and stir.
- Add the meat, cheese, milk and seasonings and stir some more, making sure all the pasta is submerged under the milk.
- Cover tightly with two sheets of aluminum foil and bake at 200°C for one hour.
- Uncover, top with Parmesan and return to oven until top is golden brown and edges are bubbly.
- Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes, so that the whole thing firms up a little, then cover with fresh basil, and warm up from the inside.
If you have any recipes that are perfect for the winter months, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you.
This article has been updated since its original publication.