I’ve mentioned this before, but it needs to be said again. I love pasta! Heck, my family loves pasta, especially my toddler. Whenever I hear about people going on any form of carb-free diets, I gasp in horror. How in the world can they give up pasta? So wrong, so wrong.
When I see a pasta recipe that looks delicious, I can’t help but Pin it onto my pasta board on Pinterest. I found this recipe for Baked Caprese Pasta by Heather Likes Food when I was making another one of her recipes that I found on Pinterest. (You might want to swing by her blog. She has many more fabulous recipes to try!) Last week, I finally got around to cooking it.
One thing I really liked was how easy it was to do. To be a bit healthier, I used whole wheat penne for this dish. I’ve gotten to where I prefer the flavor of whole wheat pasta, in general. I cooked the pasta, but stopped short of cooking it to al dente. I then let it sit in the hot water until I was ready for it. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I hate mushy pasta! I prefer it al dente. If I had cooked it all the way then baked it for the extra time, it would have come out mushy. Also, since it was going to cook an additional 30 minutes or so, it didn’t need to be cooked the whole way. It would finish cooking in the oven.
As the pasta was cooking, I started working on the sauce. I basically started with a roux. The only difference from a basic roux is this one had garlic in the butter. Once the roux was ready, I added 1 1/4 cup chicken broth and 1 1/2 cup milk, then let the sauce slowly thicken. The sauce won’t get very thick. As Heather explains, you want it just enough to coat the back of a wood spoon. When the sauce was done, I added half the drained pasta to a 9×13 casserole dish followed by 1/3 cup cubed mozzarella, 1/4 cup chopped basil, and half the tomatoes (grape tomatoes halved). Then I added the rest of the pasta, basil and tomato. I poured the sauce over the dish. From there, it was time to add the cut up box of mozzarella sticks. Cutting frozen mozzarella sticks is nearly impossible. To make it more doable, I microwaved the sticks for 30 seconds before cutting them. I added the mozzarella sticks to the top of the pasta. I covered the dish with aluminum foil then baked it in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes had passed, I removed the foil and allowed it to cook for an additional 15 minutes.
To say my husband was happy might be an understatement. He absolutely, positively, LOVED this dish. I’m glad he enjoyed it so much! It makes life easier when he likes what I cook, especially when testing out different recipes. My toddler told me it was delicious, but clearly only loved the pasta (nary a tomato was eaten by her).
This dish was very good! I wasn’t as enthused as my husband. While I enjoyed the flavors (very good), I didn’t really like the mozzarella sticks on top. I didn’t dislike them either. They just did nothing for me. DH disagreed with my assessment, though. I decided that the next time I make this recipe, I will use only half of a box of mozzarella sticks (to appease my husband) and add 1/3 cup more cubed mozzarella to place on the top layer. Can you argue with the idea of more cheese? I can’t.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/3 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb penne pasta, cooked
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 2/3 cup mozzarella, cubed
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 box Mozzarella Sticks
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan and add garlic. Saute for about 1 minute. Stir in flour, cooking an additional minute.
- Whisk in broth and milk, stirring constantly until thickened.
- Remove from heat and stir in salt and red pepper.
- In a 9x13" casserole dish, place 1/2 of the pasta into the bottom and top with 1/2 of the tomatoes, and basil, and 1/2 of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining pasta, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.
- Pour garlic sauce evenly over the pasta.
- Cut each mozzarella stick into a several pieces and place across the pasta in an even layer. Cover with foil.
- Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the mozzarella sticks are melted and crisp and the sauce is bubbling.