Mix-and-Match Baked Pasta

Design your own casserole: This step-by-step guide leads to thousands of possibilities!

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Baked Pasta

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Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Leslie Siegel

Photo by: Lisa Shin ©Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.

Lisa Shin, Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.

Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Leslie Siegel

1. Pick a Pasta

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook 1 pound of pasta (choose from these) until very al dente, 2 or 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain.

  • Fusilli
  • Farfalle
  • Cavatappi
  • Rigatoni
  • Large shells
  • Penne
  • Ziti


2. Make the Sauce

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is golden. Crush a 28-ounce can and a 15-ounce can of plum tomatoes into the skillet with your hands; rinse out each can with 1/2 cup water and add the water to the skillet. Add 4 large basil sprigs; simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, 15 minutes. Discard the basil; season the sauce with salt. (Alternatively, heat 4 cups prepared tomato sauce.)

3. Choose Your Mix-ins

While the sauce simmers, prepare 3 cups meat and/or vegetables (in any combination).

  • Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked
  • Meatballs, cooked and quartered
  • Pepperoni, chopped
  • Rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • Hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Roasted red peppers, sliced
  • Frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • Zucchini, sliced and sauteed
  • Mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
  • Eggplant, sliced and sauteed
  • Fennel, sliced and sauteed
  • Spinach, chopped and sauteed
  • Escarole, chopped and sauteed
  • Black or green pitted olives, chopped


4. Flavor the Sauce

Stir one of the following ingredients into your sauce, then add your meat and/or vegetable mix-ins.

  • For herb sauce: 1 cup each chopped basil and parsley
  • For creamy sauce: 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • For meat sauce: 3/4 pound pancetta, diced and browned

5. Pick Your Cheese

Prepare 3 cups melting cheese and 1 cup grating cheese.

Melting Cheese:

  • Fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • Mild provolone, shredded
  • Italian fontina, shredded
  • Young asiago, shredded

Grating Cheese:

  • Parmesan, grated
  • Pecorino, grated
  • Ricotta salata, grated


6. Bake the Casserole

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and half of each cheese. Spread in an oiled 3-to-4-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Be sure to undercook the pasta for your casserole; it will soften in the oven.

Photographs by Lisa Shin.

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