So originally I was going to post about another roast chicken that I made yesterday but then I remembered that it is technically fat Tuesday, so I decided to post about another recipe instead. This recipe is still healthy but just a little more decadent than a roasted chicken would be. I have been wanting to make a baked pasta dish for awhile now and finally got around to it last week. I bought some ground sirloin from the store so I decided to make a recipe that would include meat and found one on Epicurious for baked pasta with meatballs. The recipe was pretty simple to make and I basically layered sauce, pasta, meatballs and cheese but I just didn’t love the end result.
Even though I felt like I had added a lot of cheese, the result wasn’t super cheesy like I wanted and the sauce didn’t cover the pasta enough so it seemed kind of dried out. I was pretty disappointed as it doesn’t seem like baked pasta should really be that difficult to make. Since I had a little bit of leftover pasta that I didn’t use as well as lots of mozzarella cheese, I decided to do another test on a smaller scale and with a few tweaks to fix what I didn’t like, I made a baked pasta that tasted 100 times better so I am happy to be able to share the recipe!
Easy Single Serving Baked Pasta
Serves 4 (in 4 medium-large ramekins) or can easily be made in an 8×8 dish
1/2 box of ‘small’ shape pasta—about 8 ounces (I used brown rice macoroni noodles)
Approximately 1 cup of pasta sauce—or enough to coat pasta entirely
6 ounces fresh Mozzarella Cheese
½ cup low fat cottage cheese (optional)
Fresh basil (optional)
First cook pasta until al dente or a little less (you don’t want it soggy/overcooked since you will still be baking it). Drain pasta and mix the pasta sauce throughout. If you want to add cottage cheese and basil, mix both of these in too. Distribute the pasta/sauce mixture evenly into the 4 ramekins, or the 8×8 pan, salt to taste and add a piece of sliced mozzarella to the top. This will work great either way, but the reason I like the ramekin is because one thick slice of mozzarella is enough to cover the entire ramekin and then you get cheese in every bite. The single serving portions are cute, and are a great way to ensure that you get a ‘cheesy’ flavor in every single bite. If you do decide to use an 8×8 pan, I would recommend making sure the top is pretty heavily covered in mozzarella too.
I tried this recipe with cottage cheese and without and found that I liked it both ways! The recipe with cottage cheese tastes a little bit cheesier/creamier but the fresh mozzarella is really the cheese taste I love, which is why I think you could do without. For a more traditional baked pasta taste, you could also substitute ricotta for the cottage cheese.
Once you have the dish ready with mozzarella over the top, bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes (you will probably need longer if you are baking in an 8×8 pan). If you want that nice browned mozzarella look, finish the baking off by broiling on high for just a minute or less.
I obviously left the meat out of this one, and honestly I didn’t miss it. I wonder if maybe I would like it with the other tweaks I made to make the dish less dry—might be something I’ll play around with in the future. But in the meantime this is a really easy and is a dish that is fairly healthy but tastes really decadent. It is a great meal for fall days when you want to enjoy something warm! If you try it, let me know! I think this is a pretty easy dish to make some substitutions, so if you do decide to make it with meat, let me know how it goes!
P.S. Song of the day: Houdini by Foster the People. I am obsessed with this song. Great for slowish workouts like yoga, weight lifting, cruisin, etc.