Vegetarian Baked Penne
[T]he honey and I went to a great little Italian restaurant for date night over the weekend. He ordered Baked Ziti with a Bolognese sauce, and cooped up inside today listening to the rain pitter-pattering all afternoon, I was inspired to create a vegetarian version for us at home.
[T]omato season may have ended here – though my parents back in California are lucky enough to still be harvesting homegrown little beauties – but this recipe packs a flavorful punch even while substituting a store-bought tomato sauce for homemade. This is a cozy, drizzly-evening sort of meal, best served with fresh bread, good company, and a bottle – or two – of wine.
Creamy Vegetarian Baked Penne
28 oz dry whole-wheat penne pasta
24 oz tomato sauce
1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
8 oz light cream cheese, cubed
1 cup mozarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs fresh garlic, chopped
1 tbs crushed red-pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375º. Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil, onion and bell pepper to a large sauce-pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pan. Stir to combine. Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about five minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the tomato sauce and cream cheese. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the cheese has fully melted.
4. Add the pasta to the sauce, and stir to combine. Spread the pasta mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is brown and bubbly, and the pasta is warmed through. Serve hot.