I have no excuses for this, well actually I have 2: my printer/photocopier is out of ink and so if I’m going to go through the trouble of typing this out, I might as well post it. Right? Maybe that is only 1 excuse?
“Don’t worry. It’s not vegan and I didn’t try to make it low-fat.” My husband gave me a funny look when I told him my plans for our dinner.
This dish is prefect for large gatherings, full of flavours but not strongly flavoured – the kids loved it. I should clarify, my youngest nephew turned up his nose because it has peas in it. But his older brother claims this is “the bestest pasta ever.” ( BTW – I make the “bestest granola bars ever” and the “bestest muffins ever” too.) It’s creamy but not really heavy, satisfied the meat-eaters and the vegetarians.
The recipe that follows makes 2 large lasagna sized pans or 13″x9″ casserole dishes. It could easily be cut in half. Although I wouldn’t. I assembled the dish early in the morning and baked just before serving. You could throw one of the assembled but not baked casseroles in the freezer for another day if you didn’t need it right away. One casserole generously serves 10-12. I baked both and we only ate one. Reheating again definitely dries out the dish, so next time I will only bake one at a time.
BAKED PENNE WITH PEAS
- 2 pkgs (16 oz each) penne or ziti pasta
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (Note: fresh basil was in the original recipe, and I could not find any in the stores so I used 2 Tbsps fresh oreagano and 2 Tbsp dried basil)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbps cornstarch
- 5 cups 2% milk
- 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
- 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 20oz bag frozen peas
In a large stock pot, the biggest you have, cook pasta until al-dente. Before you drain the penne, throw the frozen peas in the colander. Drain the pasta over the peas, then return to the pasta pot.
Meanwhile, in a 5-6 quart saucepot (I used my dutch oven) melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender and golden, 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add tomatoes with their juice, basil, salt and pepper, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 mins. Stir occasionally.
In a cup, whisk together 1/2 cup of cold milk and cornstarch until blended and cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour cornstarch mixture, cream, remaining 4 & 1/2 cups milk, 1 cup Parmesan cheese into tomato mixture. Heat to boiling over medium high heat. Boil until sauce thickens, about 1 minute, stirring often. Note that it will take a bit to actually come up to a boil, and once boiling it will only be bubbling a bit on top. not a hard boil. Ensure you stir while boiling, otherwise you will burn the milk.
Once pasta is ready and sauce has thickened, pour the sauce over the peas and pasta (which are now drained and back in the pasta pot). Stir well to combine and divide evenly into the 2 casserole dishes. Sprinkle each dish with 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
If baking immediately, bake uncovered in 400 degree oven for 20 minute or until bubbly. Otherwise, store in the refrigerator until ready to go. Add 15-20 minutes to the baking time if baking out of the fridge. And bake covered for the first half of the cooking time to avoid over-browning the top. If you decide to freeze, thaw the casserole overnight in the fridge before placing in the oven.
Since I forgot to take a picture of the finished casserole, here is a picture of the cute little cupcake my nephew decorated (the one that doesn’t like peas) …..