Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baked Pasta

As I was sitting in Kansas City last week, snowed in up to my eyeballs, I made the resolve to blog a lot and get caught up on recipes I have had written down since July. Well, that didn't turn out according to plan, as I was either a) pooped or b) drinking beer once the sun set. What do you want from me? Happily, I can report I found a fantastic restaurant in KC called Blancs Burgers and Bottles, which serves not only really good burgers but also has a pretty impressive beer selection.

Also big on my list lately, easy food. Between myself and Em traveling lately, we barely had a together meal over 2 weeks. Not my idea of a good time, but I also try (TRY) to prevent ordering out when I'm by myself. That's a slippery road. I instead turned to my dear friend pasta to help me through the cold nights.

I started making baked pasta about a year ago, and it has evolved into a simple weeknight meal and something I can always make with what I have on hand. Since I made a lot of tomato sauce this summer, 1 bag of that out of the freezer is all I need to get this dish going. If you don't have that handy, you can always use jarred sauce, but try to stick to just the tomato variety (like Ragu).
Baked Pasta

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups tomato sauce (preferably home-made, if you don’t have it, use a jar of tomato pasta sauce)
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon red pepper flake
Salt and pepper
1 pound tube pasta (rigatoni or penne)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook pasta in well-salted water by package directions, undercooking by 1-2 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water when draining.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter. Once melted whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds until well combined. Whisk in milk (it will cook faster if the milk is at room temperature) and cook until thickened and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese, red pepper flake, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper. Turn off heat and add in tomato sauce. Season to taste.

In a 13x9 baking sheet add pasta. Add sauce over top and fold in to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add pasta water to thin it out. It will thicken as it bakes. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot. Enjoy.