This simple penne pasta recipe includes garlic, tomatoes, and shredded mozzarella cheese. It's a simple dish to fix and bake, and it makes a fabulous everyday meal or potluck dish. Plus, it's meat-free. If you're looking for something simple to serve your vegetarian friends and family or you simply want a way to dress up plain pasta, this is an excellent choice. Or use a dairy-free cheese substitute to make it a vegan dish.
This dish can be a stand-alone meal or serve it along with a salad or a meat entree. Add some grilled or broiled chicken breasts, fish, or steaks. Of course, you can adapt it with the addition of meat. Brown some ground beef or Italian sausage and add it to the sauce if you like, or add some diced cooked chicken to the tomato mixture. Instead of all mozzarella cheese, consider half cheddar or a blend of mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone. You'll have the extra flavor, and it will still melt beautifully.
Mushrooms are another excellent option that will add texture and earthy flavor. Saute a few ounces of fresh sliced mushrooms along with the onions. Or swap out half of the crushed tomatoes with Italian seasoned diced tomatoes for a chunkier sauce. One reader recommended adding a 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes in addition to the 28-ounce can of crushed. The pasta is adaptable as well. Feel free to swap out the penne with elbow macaroni, ditalini, rigatoni, or ziti in the dish.
- 16 ounces penne pasta (or similar shape)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled (or about 1 tablespoon fresh chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C/Gas 4).
- Butter a 2 1/2 to 3-quart shallow baking dish or casserole.
- Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water as directed on package; drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, or until it is translucent. Add the garlic to the onion and continue cooking for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano to the onion and garlic. Cook until heated through, stirring frequently.
- Taste and add salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked, drained penne, the tomato sauce mixture, and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly.
- Spoon the pasta and sauce mixture into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese over the top.
- Bake the casserole for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pasta is hot and bubbly and the cheese has melted.