Cheesy Tomato Penne Bake

I have been eating a lot of pasta lately. And a lot of crackers and cereal and toast. Honestly, I think I’ve eaten more carbs in the past three months than in all of 2010. But there’s a pretty good reason…I’m 13 and a half weeks pregnant! Mike and I are completely thrilled. In fact, we’re so excited we’ve already bought 3 books for the baby (our only baby-related purchase so far).

Pregnancy has put a slight damper on my running, but I’ve still been averaging at least 25 miles a week (although a couple weeks during the complete exhaustion of the first trimester it was closer to 20). I was hoping I’d still be able to run Boston, and fortunately my doctor gave me the green light, so I’ll be run/walking it at 20 weeks! I had already planned on running with my dad, and now that there’s a third generation involved I’m even more excited.

Speaking of running, this weekend’s 16-miler was GORGEOUS. I’m not sure why the city of San Francisco has closed the Great Highway to cars the last two Sundays, but I’m not complaining!

If you’ve ever run the Nike Women’s marathon, that picture was taken about where the 25 mile marker is. It’s so cruel to have the last 2 miles of the race be on a long straight stretch with the finish line in view, but at least the scenery is nice.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of running along the ocean.

After any long run, comfort food is always on my mind, and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. I adapted a recipe for baked ziti, but left out the meat (obviously), subbed in whole wheat penne, and replaced the cream and cornstarch with a little light cream cheese. Mike and I both loved this as dinner and as leftovers for a few days.

Recipe:
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated via Annie’s Eats)

1 lb. 1% or fat free cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
salt and pepper
1 lb. whole wheat penne
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp. sugar
4 oz. light cream cheese, softened
8 oz. low-moisture part-skim mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Stir the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1/2 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes, or until soft but not cooked through. Drain in a colander.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is very soft. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano and basil, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put the pot you used to cook the pasta over low heat. Add the drained pasta and cream cheese, and stir until the pasta is coated well. Stir in the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and about half the mozzarella. Mix well, making sure the pasta is coated with sauce.

Put the pasta into a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the tomato sauce. Bake for about 30 minutes

Remove from the oven and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

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