This is my take on the traditional baked ziti. I rarely have ziti pasta on hand and almost always have penne pasta in my pantry. It was one of those days that I was home and had some hamburger that I wanted to fix into something tasty. Of course pasta is always an easy thing to turn into a one pan dinner. I rummaged through my pantry and fridge to see what I could put together and I came up with this recipe, writing it down as I went. If I don’t keep notes of how I make things, then my husband will tell me he likes this dish just like it is and ask me to make it again. Well, I can’t remember one meal to the next, much less how I threw something together. So, I make notes. LOTS of notes.
If you think about it, this one dish really does have lots of great vegetables and flavors along with protein from the meat and carbs from the pasta. I’m not one for living on carbs, but all things in moderation and balance works for me. Kinda like peanut butter on toast make a great breakfast. Well, around here it does.
Here’s how I made it.
Baked Penne Pasta
For this dish, I find it easier to do all the prep work first before I start cooking. A lot of times, I chop and throw it in as I’m cooking. Here I had fresh whole mushrooms to slice plus onions, carrots and red bell peppers to dice. Well, maybe not the peppers since I had them in the freezer. That’s handy. I just measured out how much I wanted.
For herbs, I had fresh thyme in the refrigerator and Lemon Basil with Olive Oil in the freezer. Super Handy! I freeze the basil in ice cubes and then pop them out into a freezer bag. Want to know how I Freeze Basil? Click the link and check out my post on that. It’s as close to fresh as you can get in the winter time unless you want to run to the store for the fresh. Me, not so much. By the way, I also freeze Basil Pesto. Check out that post too!
OK, now that I have all the prep work done, the rest is about dumping it in and stirring. Well, let’s start with browning the meat first. When it’s almost done, drain the excess grease and stir in the fresh mushrooms. (If you don’t have fresh mushrooms on hand, canned works just as well)
Finish browning the meat and sauteing the mushrooms for another 5 minutes or so.
Throw in the diced onions, carrots and red bell pepper. Cook that over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Then add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme sprigs, basil with olive oil. Stir. As you can see here, the basil ice cube has thawed out.
A tip on the tomato paste. When a recipe calls for a Tablespoon or so of tomato paste, I don’t like opening a can and then having most of it leftover. Instead, I keep a tube of tomato paste in my fridge. It’s great for recipes like this one.
Add the diced tomatoes and stir.
Add the tomato sauce. Stir.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. If I have time, I like for it to simmer even longer.
Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta as directed on package.
Start by putting a layer of the sauce on the bottom of the pan.
Then add the cooked penne pasta.
Pour the hot meat sauce on top of the penne pasta, removing the thyme sprigs.
Sprinkle on a nice layer of Parmesan cheese.
I didn’t feel like shredding the mozzarella cheese, so I just sliced the block and layered it on top. Either way works just fine.
Cover it with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it’s all hot and bubbly.
Oh my goodness, my mouth is just watering. If you could only smell this. It is scrumptious!
This is what I call comfort food. (and it makes great leftovers for lunch the next day)
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.