Allana's Baked Herb Pasta
There aren’t many things I love more than pasta. I believe in the power of buttered noodles, I know San Marzano tomatoes reign supreme and that spaghetti was made for basil pesto and of course, I believe any pasta is better when you bake it in the oven.
That being said, when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, there was no question. I figured, if I was going to turn one year older, I may as well ring in the new ‘me’ with a mouthwatering plate of food. What’s wonderful about this baked penne dish is the addition of mascarpone - or what Italians call, heaven. Slightly similar to cream cheese, mascarpone is a thick, milk-based cream cheese, mild in flavor and used often in both sweet and savory dishes. In this baked penne, for instance, the mascarpone adds a richness to the sauce that cuts through the acidic roasted tomatoes and brings out their sweetness.
However, what brings this whole dish together are the herbs. Italian herbs, garlic and parsley, to say the least. For this pasta dish, I incorporated both Gourmet Garden herbs (as the ones mentioned above) and fresh chives, as a finishing garnish. Add in some penne, roasted cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese & a very hot oven and what you end up with my friends, is something amazing. Clearly, something happens in that oven that we don’t know about. Flavors come together, cheese bubbles, herbs cling to the noodles and something is transformed. Whatever it is though, I’m not sure I want to know. Reason being, this baked pasta dish is a staple and has been for years. I first had it when I was in high school when my best friends mom cooked it for all of us kids after a playdate. I distinctly remember sitting in the living room, stuffing my face without a care in the world - it was that good. That’s the thing about baked pastas, you can pretty much dig in and you know it’s going to be awesome.
Obviously though, back in highschool, my first experience with the baked pasta didn’t have the Gourmet Garden herbs. Now though, upon baking, there was no question. The pre-packaged goodies pack a punch of flavor that I simply couldn’t find with elsewhere with dried or fresh herbs. Plus, if you only use a little (like I did with the parsley in this dish) you can easily package the herbs back up and keep them in the fridge for next time. So simple and so practical. Just trust me on this one, this baked pasta is an easy, mind-blowing dish. Make it tonight. You won’t be sorry.
- 2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 lb pasta, preferably penne or rigatoni
- 1 ¼ cups mascarpone cheese
- 1 ½ cups parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh chives Flavored olive oil (lemon, rosemary, anything really)
- 1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Parsley
- 1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs
Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper and Gourmet Garden garlic. Place them cut side up on a lined cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven until slightly plump, about 15 - 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Cook pasta according to directions on box, drain and set aside in a bowl - reserving about 1 cup hot pasta water. Mix in the mascarpone cheese and stir with pasta until melted. Add the tomatoes, Gourmet Garden Parsley & Herbs, ½ of the Parmesan mixture, salt, pepper, half of the chives and a little water if needed. Mix well to combine.
Place the pasta mixture in a buttered shallow baking dish. Add the remaining parmesan on top and bake until bubbly and brown. Sprinkle the remaining chives on top and serve hot.