February 22, 2009

Make Me Taste Something Baked Pasta

Here's the deal.  I've been sick for two weeks now, and I am SO sick of it.  It started out with a sore throat and exhaustion, which I could totally deal with relative to the cold I have now.  I would pick a sore throat over this torturous state of having only three senses any day.  The only thing I've been able to taste in the last week is grapes, grape tomatoes, a nectarine, and the outermost shell of Gobstoppers.  Everything else is just a bland mouthful of food.  

When I finally had a bit of an appetite last night I knew there were two things that would be essential to whatever I made - spice and texture.  I looked around at what I had, and I decided to make a baked pasta dish.  

Here's what went into it:

8 oz. uncooked whole wheat farfalle
25.5 oz jar pasta sauce
5 smallish kale leaves
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked ground beef
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack (optional)

Step one: boil the pasta.  I had this partial bag of farfalle sitting around, so that's what I used.  I'm always surprised by how much cooked pasta comes from a seemingly small amount of dry pasta.  I was worried that this amount would not be enough for a 9" round baking dish, and I ended up filling a 9"x13" dish.  Shows how much I know!

I decided to use kale because 1) it's delicious, 2) I had some in the fridge, and 3) it holds up well when cooked.  Texture texture texture.  Try saying that three times fast.  

Rinse the kale, and cut out the thickest part of the stem. 

Roughly chop it into about 1" pieces.  

I was lazy (and sick, give me a break!) and used a jar of pasta sauce, but you could also make your own.  I actually only used about 3/4 of the jar, but I should have just used it all.

Here's where the spice element came in.  Heat up the sauce in sauce pan over medium-low heat.  I added a good tablespoon of crushed red pepper.  If you are not attempting to clear out your sinuses, I would cut back on this amount.  Just add it in little by little until you're satisfied.  

I'm kind of addicted to oregano, so I threw that in, too.  I probably could have done without it since it is not spicy, and therefore I cannot taste it.  Ugh.  When will this end?

I added some ground beef that was left over from a pizza we made, but you could easily skip this step for a nice, vegetarian-friendly meal.  This is also a great way to use up little tomatoes that are getting wrinkly and are losing their appeal when they're raw.  

Stir it all together, and cook for a few minutes so all the flavors combine.  Add a little salt if it needs it.  

Once the pasta is done, mix it into the sauce.  

I realized I needed a larger mixing vessel, so I transferred it all to the pasta-boiling pot and threw in the kale.  

Transfer the mixture to a 9"x13" baking dish.  

Sprinkle a little grated Parmesan over the top.  

If you want a little extra cheesiness, add some Monterey Jack or mozzarella.  

Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the cheese melts.  

And enjoy!  I sure did.  It was a nice combination of various textures with a little kick of spice.  

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