You know how excited I get when I find a great recipe so here we go. My sister gave me a copy of the Food Network magazine for March where I saw an article on Mix and Match Baked Pasta. I liked the concept of picking your favorite pasta, making a basic tomato sauce, picking mix-ins from meat to vegetables, adding flavorings and cheeses. Check out the magazine for further inspiration but here is the formula I used with a twist of my own. I even gave it a name because it was a huge hit with my family.
Mama Mia's Baked Pasta
1 16 oz. package bow tie pasta
1 35 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
sweet Italian sausage
2 Tbsp. low fat cream cheese
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 6 oz. package fresh spinach
1 bunch parsley
1 package basil
1/2 cup low fat, low salt cottage cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Remove casings from sausage and brown in a large skillet over medium high heat. Rinse, drain and place in a 13X9 baking dish that has been lightly greased. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to meat in dish. Meanwhile, reuse skillet to brown zucchini in 2 Tbsp. of oil. When lightly browned, add to meat in baking dish. Heat remaining oil in skillet and saute garlic until fragrant. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your fingers as you add them to the pan. Add water and 2 Tbsp. of cream cheese. Stir in fresh spinach and let simmer. Using a food processor, process the basil, parsley and cottage cheese until chopped and blended. Stir into sauce. Pour sauce over pasta mixture and mix well. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.
While this recipe isn't hard, it does have several steps but it was worth it. I'd serve this with a salad and bread to any guests; it is that good. The twist I used was the cottage cheese to make the sauce a bit creamier without the fat cheese would have added. Since there were so many nice vegetables in it, I didn't feel the need for a side, I just served bread. Give this recipe a try this weekend and see if you don't like it too.