Baked pasta is my idea of real comfort food. It’s easy to cook and can be prepared well ahead of time, making it a go-to dish for families (especially since it also freezes well). Served with a good salad, it becomes soul-satisfying. This recipe is a good basis for adding other vegetables that you like: broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, kale or anything else in your vegetable drawer. If you like smoky flavours, smoked provolone cheese lends a more complex taste than provolone.
Ready time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 to 8
12 oz (375 g) penne
4 tbsp olive oil
3 zucchini, cut in 1-inch dice
3 leeks, washed and thickly sliced, using white and light green parts only
1 lb (500 g) mixed mushrooms, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 796-ml can Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp chopped garlic
¾ tsp chili flakes
1½ tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups grated provolone cheese
½ cup grated parmesan
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is slightly undercooked (it will continue to cook as it bakes). Drain and reserve, reserving 1 cup cooking water separately. Place in large bowl.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini (or whatever hard vegetables you’re using) and sauté until golden on the outside, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add leeks and mushrooms (or softer veg, such as greens) and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened. Remove vegetables from skillet with slotted spoon and reserve.
Crush tomatoes by hand and add to the same skillet, including all of the juices from the can. Bring to boil, then stir in reserved pasta cooking water, balsamic vinegar, garlic, chili flakes and oregano and bring back to boil. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to combine flavours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return vegetable mixture to tomato sauce.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove skillet from heat and stir into pasta, adding remaining 2 tbsp oil. Stir in provolone. Taste for seasoning. Pour pasta mixture into oiled 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until mixture is bubbling and cheese is golden on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.