If you want pasta that tastes legendary but you refuse to spend a lot of time cooking it, here’s a hack to give you the best of both worlds.
When the wintry chills are getting you down, whip up a large quantity of tomato-y, cheesy, baked pasta for yourself. If you’re worried about dirtying one too many dishes — a pot for boiling, a pot for making sauce, and then another to use as a baking dish — this is all unnecessary fuss. All you need is a single dish to slow cook your pasta in a bath of milk.
If you regularly cook pasta for yourself and your family, that’s quite a lot of water you’re wasting. Welp, it turns out there’s a very practical reason to save some — helping the environment is just a bonus.”
It’s pretty rare if I cook something the same way twice. This is especially true with pasta sauce, as it is adaptable by nature. The other night I was making a very basic spaghetti dinner for myself and a friend, simply because I had found a can of tomatoes I didn’t know I had.
As I was tasting and tweaking, I remembered I had about half a cup of the spicy, nduja-like spread (a spicy pork salami spread of sorts) I’d made earlier in the week. I quickly added it to the sauce and to my surprise, it ended up tasting pretty darn good.
Yes, I know what I said, and I know you have questions. Why not water? Because water does not add the richness that milk does.
Will my sauce be all white and milky? It will not. Instead, the dry pasta will absorb the moisture, and the dairy will combine with the canned tomatoes and cheese (which, yes, is also dairy) to create a super-rich, but still tomato-y sauce.
Other than pasta and milk, you will need whole, peeled tomatoes, about 340.19g of cooked meat (you can even use this pepperoni spread, but things might get a little greasy), a bunch of cheese, and any seasonings you like. None of this is meant to sound fancy — it’s about a pile of cheesy carbs turned into a dish worthy of giving you the ultimate comfort.
How to make easy bake pasta
- 200 grams dried tubular pasta, such as ziti or penne
- 1 can of peeled tomatoes
- 300 grams of cooked sausage, seasoned ground beef, or any other kind of protein you’d like to toss in there
- 2 cups of shredded mozzarella
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- Fresh basil (optional), cut into ribbons
- Add the pasta to a large casserole pan (at least 9×9).
- Open up the can of tomatoes. Stick a pair of clean kitchen scissors directly down in can, and snip, snip, snip until all your canned of tomatoes are chopped.
- Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pasta, and stir.
- Add the meat, cheese, milk, and seasonings and stir some more, making sure all the pasta is submerged under the milk.
- Cover tightly with two sheets of aluminium foil, and bake at 200C degree for an hour.
- Uncover, top with Parmesan, and return to the oven until the top is browned and the edges are bubbling.
- Let rest for at least 15 minutes, to let everything firm up a bit, then top with fresh basil, and warm yourself from the inside out.
If you have recipes that are perfect for the winter months, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us in the comments and we’ll be in touch.
This article has been updated since its original publication.