Monday, December 19, 2011

Baked Penne with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

I've been using this recipe for a while.  LOVE it, but realized that if I were going to wait for a picture to get it posted on the blog, I might not ever share it with you.

It makes 2 8-inch square pans.  One for now.  One to freeze for later.

I'll type the recipe as I got it (Real Simple, Sept. 2010), and in parentheses put my own take on it.

1/8 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped. (If buying from Fred Meyer, I just use the whole jar.  Now that I'm using a Costco size jar, I used 3/4 cup.)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 28-oz can DICED tomatoes
       (Or, as I have in the pantry, 6 14.5-oz cans of diced tomatoes instead of the
         3 28-oz cans that are listed in the recipe)
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1.5 pounds penne (or other similar pasta)
10 oz baby spinach
4 cups mozzarella, grated
1/2 c grated Parmesan

Put oil in large saucepan (large skillet) and heat over medium heat.  Add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes.  Break up the whole tomatoes by cutting them with scissors in the can or with your hands.  Add to saucepan, along with the vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta for 1/2 the recommended time.  The pasta will continue to cook while it bakes.  Drain the pasta.

(Now, since I have only 1 pasta size pan, I have changed the directions for assembly to resemble how I do it.)

When the sauce is done simmering, pour it into the big pasta pan (note: make sure the pasta is still draining). Put the spinach in, and stir until wilted.  I usually have to do this in batches, or else the spinach overflows.  NOW, add the pasta, and stir until mixed.  It's a very careful endeavor, as the pot is FULL.

Split 1/2 the pasta mixture between the two 8-inch square baking dishes, so that they are 1/2 way full.  Sprinkle each with 1 cup of the mozzarella.  Dividing evenly among the dishes, top with the remaining pot of pasta mixture.  Sprinkle each with 1 cup of the remaining mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

To eat tonight: Bake at 400 degrees, until bubbling and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

To freeze and cook later: Freeze unbaked pasta, tightly sealed for up to 3 months.  To cook, thaw the pasta and bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees until heated through, bubbling, and beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Update from Suzanne (1/25/12):

I made this last night and the adults really enjoyed it.  The kids weren't huge fans of the spinach or the tomato chunks, but picked around it and still ate the noodles.  It makes two really heaping 8x8's, so I think you could easily split it into three dishes and get another meal out of it.

Before baking, and still need to spread the cheese.

Final product

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