Baked Pasta Casserole
This baked pasta casserole is pure, ooey-gooey deliciousness, but far healthier than most other bakes you'll find. The reason for this is the cauliflower hiding in the ricotta cheese, which takes on the flavor of—you guessed it—RICOTTA CHEESE. This is an excellent veggie-delivery system for the vegetable-averse, and is always a hit with the kids. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!
- 1 lb. of your favorite pasta (or a mixture)
- 4 cups prepared Marinara or Bolognese Sauce (see Recipe Note #1)
- or use jarred
- 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups skim-milk ricotta cheese (reduce by 3/4 cup if using cauliflower)
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp. Italian herbs
- 1 large egg
- S&P to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°. Warm your prepared sauce on the stovetop or in the microwave. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into florets. When the water is boiling, add your cauliflower and cook until a paring knife pierces the florets without resistance. Fish the florets out of the pot with a spider or slotted spoon, allowing the water to continue boiling. Rinse cauliflower with cold water for 30 seconds.
Add your pasta to the pot and cook according to package directions (you want al dente, because the pasta will continue cooking in the oven). Meanwhile, add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper to your cauliflower; purée until smooth with an immersion blender or a food processor. Add the (beaten) egg, herbs, and ricotta cheese; mix well.
Drain your pasta well. Mix in 3 cups of your sauce and the ricotta/cauliflower mixture. Top with the remaining cup of sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil* and set on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil from casserole and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Enjoy!
WORK AHEAD: I highly recommend making the sauce in advance so it's on-hand and ready to go. The flavor will be even better. The casserole can be assembled the night before and kept in the refrigerator (covered with foil) until it's ready to go in the oven. Note that you do not have to re-head the sauce in this case: just mix it in cold. You can also freeze the casserole: put it in the refrigerator the day before you want to eat it. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°
- My favorite sauces are homemade Marinara Sauce (like my Slow-Roasted Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce or Vegan Pantry Marinara Sauce) or Bolognese Sauce. If you prefer to use your favorite jarred sauce, I won't tell.