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This is a different twist on my family's old favorite: Baked Penne. This recipe is also meatLESS, which I like, but I am sure you can improvise and add ground meat or sausage if you prefer. This is great for potlucks or parties because it can easily be made ahead of time. I saw a version of this made on 30 Minute Meals, but I prefer to make my own pesto sauce from scratch, because I am not too fond of the store bought. To save time, please feel free to use store bought pesto. I also chose to use whole wheat pasta in this as well. Because of the great flavors of pesto, cheese and tomatoes, I find that it is easy to sub whole wheat pasta, even for folks who might be skeptical.
- 1 lb plain pasta or 1 lb whole wheat pasta (penne, ziti, shells or corkscrews work well)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1⁄2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaf
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup basil pesto (I use Basil Pesto "Lighter" Version-Basil Pesto - "Lighter Version")
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- 1⁄2 lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Preheat your pot for the tomato sauce over medium heat.
- Add olive oil, then garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Next add the diced onion, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until onion soft and fragrant.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well.
- When tomatoes begin to boil, reduce heat to low, add fresh basil leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Let sauce simmer while you make your pesto (if not using store bought).
- Preheat broiler.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook until just barely al dente.
- Drain pasta, and toss with 1 cup of your pesto sauce, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 1 cup of the ricotta cheese, be sure to blend well.
- Add pasta to a casserole dish.
- Top with the tomato basil sauce.
- You don't need to use all of the sauce, but rather serve the extra on the side.
- Top casserole with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Place under broiler for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
- **Note:Casserole can be assembled ahead of time, covered with foil, and then reheated in a 350 degree oven until heated through.
- Remove foil for last 5-10 minutes in order to melt cheese.