Make-a-Date-Crazy Pasta Bake
by Angela McClure
(Holly Springs, NC, US)
Make-a-Date-Crazy Pasta Bake
About ten years ago, my mother and I were both divorced and living only a quarter of a mile from each other. One night, I had leftovers from a date. I let my mom try the casserole I had designed. I told her that I was making this for my dates and it seems that everyone who had tried it, liked it. 1/2 lb. ground mild-flavored Italian sausage
She said to me, that she was sure that this dish would make a date “go crazy” for me and to keep making it and she had to have the recipe! I gave her the recipe expecting her to probably simply file it away.
Months later, my mother invited me to dinner. She wanted me to meet a man that she had been dating. The house smelled so good. When we all sat down to dinner, I looked at my plate and knew right away that this was the same dish I had designed and had given her the recipe. My mom smiled at me and I could tell she knew what I was thinking.
While we ate, her date told me that the dish was his favorite. He loved my mom's cooking and looking at my mom, he stated that he was “crazy” for her and her cooking. When he said that, I thought both my mom and I would choke from laughing. We both remembered our conversation months before. But, we kept it our little secret.
1/8 cup chopped purple onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped fine (divided in use)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (divided in use)
1/2 lb. Ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. crushed oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 cup canned stewed tomatoes
2 1/2 cups Italian-style pasta sauce (divided in use)
2 small (or 1 med.) zucchini squash, washed thoroughly and cubed
1 1/4 cups penne or ziti pasta (whole grain or regular)(cooked al 'dente)
shredded Parmesan & Romano Cheese (for topping)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 qt. casserole dish with cooking spray.
Heat sausage, onion, 1 clove garlic, and 1 Tbsp. oil in saucepan. Mix well. Heat until sausage done and no longer pink.
Using large mixing bowl, spoon in ricotta cheese, oregano, basil and rosemary. Stir well. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Squeeze tomatoes into mixture and add 1/4 cup pasta sauce. Stir well. Add sausage to mixture. Fold in zucchini and cooked pasta.
Pour mixture into casserole dish. Cover. Place in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Top should be slightly browned.
While pasta is baking, prepare sauce. Pour remaining pasta sauce, olive oil and garlic in small saucepan and place on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until bubbling. Turn off heat. Stir well and cover.
Spoon onto plates and drizzle 2-3 Tbsp. of sauce over mound.
Top with Parmesan & Romano cheese (optional).
Suggestion: Serve along with a green salad tossed with a citrus vinaigrette or oil and red wine vinegar.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 2-4 servings