done3

Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake

done1

My husband often works pretty late and on occasion, I will have a meeting to get to late into the evening as well.  On nights like that I am thankful to have the support of my parents who adore my children.  And my kids love going over to Vavó and Vavô’s house!  But, my mom also works all day, so when they will be there up until bed time and the kid’s need supper, I like to bring by something ready to put in the oven when I can.  something easy and portable is this “Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake”!

Of course if I am making this and bringing it to my parent’s house, then that leaves my husband to fend for himself, not to mention a hungry me when I get home… So, what I decided to do to solve that issue was to make one big batch and divide it among two smaller baking dishes, which was more than enough to feed both homes! (Of course you could make this recipe and freeze half too! – just freeze before the final step of popping it in the oven)

This recipe is great for kids because it has a fun cork screw pasta, cheese and it’s not spicy at all… Of course you could kick it up by using a spicy sausage and spicing up the sauce a bit, but my kids love this version and since Mom and Dad were out working late, the kids win.  It’s got all the same ingredients of a lasagna, but it’s got some semi-homemade ingredients like an easy jarred marinara and it takes about 20 minutes tops to prepare! Then, just pop it in the oven and serve!

This meal is easy enough to be a week night meal, pack away as a freezer meal or serve to a crowd! Let me show you how I did it…

Pick a fun tubular pasta with ridges… I like Cavatappi, it looks like a cork screw. Start this boiling before you do anything else so it can be ready when you finish with the other steps.

Take one package (5-6 links) of Italian Sausage, sweet or hot and take the casings off… Today, I went with sweet because it’s meant to feed the kids. Place in a large skillet over medium heat. I like using sausage in this because it cuts down on some of your work be providing flavor right off the bat, plus my husband loves Italian Sausage.  But, if you wanted to use some ground beef or turkey, that would be fine too! You could even make the sauce without any meat at all!

Dice up an onion.

Add the onions right in with the sausage and add just a splash of olive oil right on top to help them get going.

You want to render out the fat from the sausage and bring everything to a golden brown color. If you have some extra fat in the pan you can either drain it or leave it… I didn’t have much fat left in my pan at all.

Now here is the “Easy” in “Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake”… Add in one jar of your favorite ready-made Marinara Sauce.

For some additional moisture and body add in one can of diced tomatoes… If your family is not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in their food, you should still add in one can of tomato sauce.

Add the tomatoes right in, you want them to cook down a bit.

Add in about 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper.

Place two cups of ricotta cheese in a bowl.

Add two eggs in with the ricotta.

Here is another “easy” ingredient… Add in 1/2 cup of pre-grated parmesan cheese.

Stir together making sure to really work those eggs in.

Next, add in some shredded mozzarella cheese.

Once you have a smooth consistency, add in some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Once your pasta is drained, add in cheese.

Stir together.

Either divide among two baking dishes like I did, or use one 9″x13″ baking dish.

This is a block of mozzarella… You can find it right in the regular dairy case.

For this recipe, you can dice up about half the block.

Dot the top of cheesy pasta with half of your cubed mozzarella.

Pour the sauce on top.

Spread the sauce.

Dot the top with the remaining cubed mozzarella and some additional shredded mozzarella. Then add on a dash of grated parmesan. Now you are ready to wrap this and pop in the fridge for later or bake.  Whenever you are ready to bake, just place in a 350°F oven for 30 mins.

done2

done3

Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

1 box Cavatappi Pasta, cooked to al dente

For the sauce:

5-6 links Italian Sausage, casing removed

1 onion, diced

1 tsp. olive oil

1 jar marinara sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. Italian seasoning mix

salt and pepper to taste

For cheese mixture:

2 cups Ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup shredded 3. cheese

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 dash salt

1 dash pepper

For topping:

8 oz. block mozzarella, cubed

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

1 Tbs. grated parmesan

Directions:

Cook off pasta to one minute less than the package ingredients, drain.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage while chopping it into smaller bits with a wooden spoon.  Add in onions and oil.  Render the fat out of the sausage and drain if needed.  Once sausage and onions are brown, add in jarred marinara and can of diced tomatoes.  To the sauce add in Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ricotta, grated parmesan, eggs, shredded mozzarella, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Add cheese mixture to drained pasta.  Place in a baking dish.  Directly on the cheesy pasta add on 1/2 the cubed mozzarella, then sauce.  Now dot the top with remaining cubed mozzarella, shredded mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  Serve, enjoy!

*Note: If making this recipe gluten-free, just use a gluten-free pasta and follow all instructions.