Friday, October 19, 2012

Pizza Pasta Bake

I don't think I have mentioned this before but I love pasta.  Truly, madly, deeply love pasta.  It possibly borders on an obsession, but why label it?  I hate labels.  Any - way......I could have a pasta dish every night and be perfectly happy.  If I ever had to go on a carb-free diet, I would cry.  Not that cute, tear trickling down your cheek cry, but the chest-wracking sobs that make you snort, sniffle and gasp.  The ugly crying.  Please don't make me go on a carb-free diet!  I beg of you - no one wants to see that!

Now that we've made a "No carb-free diet" pact, you might be wondering, do I have a favorite pasta?  No, I'm not partial to only one kind of pasta, there are just too many good ones out there.  I have recently discovered the wonder of buccatini, however, and it is high on my list currently.  Buccatini is a thicker spaghetti with a hollowed out center.  It can be somewhat hard to find, which makes me treasure it even more.  Other pastas that I use a lot are penne and shells.  The reason being, they allow whatever sauce you have made to get in those holes and crevices, and goosh out when you bite into them, causing an explosion of taste in your mouth.  That is one of the best things about today's recipe - you get that wonderful goosh! 

Another good thing about the recipe is that it comes together very quickly.  Once you pop it in the oven, you have a good 30-40 minutes to catch up on episodes of Big Bang Theory (or whatever else you like, but I can't imagine anything better than BBT), while the ingredients do their thing and turn into some great comfort food!  Which leads me to my motto regarding pasta - "Mo' pasta, mo' better."  Did I really just say that?  Oh, good gravy, look how cheesy I've become!  I apologize.  I'll try never to go there again.  Moving on.........

Here's you Cast of Characters

1 Lb. shell pasta
2 – 8 Oz. cans pizza sauce (We’ve already had this discussion how I prefer to make homemade pizza sauce, but in a hurry, I used canned, and I found a brand at Walmart that is really good – Dei Fratelli.)
1 Cup part skim ricotta cheese
¼ Cup Parmesan + enough to sprinkle on top at the end
1 Teaspoon, each, McCormick Perfect Pinch garlic & herb seasoning (or garlic powder) & basil
10-12 Pepperoni slices, quartered
½ Teaspoon, each, Lawry’s season salt, pepper and Sicilian seasoning (or Italian Seasoning)
1 Cup Italian blend shredded  cheese or Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350, and spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Cook pasta to al dente – about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ricotta, ¼ cup Parmesan, garlic and herb seasoning and basil.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix pizza sauce, Lawry's, pepper and Sicilian seasoning.  Set aside.

Once shells are done, drain and put back in the warm pot.  Stir ricotta cheese mixture in, coating all shells well.

Press into prepared pan.

Spread pizza sauce evenly over shells.

Take your spoon and work the noodles around a little, letting the sauce sink in a little.  Don't stir, though, you don't want it completely blended.

Next, layer pepperoni over sauce.

Sprinkle shredded cheese all over.  Then dust with a little more Parmesan.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through.  Broil for a couple of minutes to get top browned.

Serve.  Enjoy!

*Note:  This pasta freezes really well.  It's a great one to make on the weekend, and put in the freezer until you have one of those crazy weeknights where you need something ready to heat.  Just double the cooking time.