Oh, boy! The moment I started perfecting my Baked Penne recipe, I knew it was going to be a slam dunk. It’s no secret that my love for cooking runs deep, but boy howdy, do I love it when a dish turns out to be an instant crowd-pleaser. You know, the type of meal that gets mouths watering and has everyone asking for seconds before you even sit down to dig in.
The secret to this lip-smacking, tummy-filling concoction is all in the preparation, friends. Let me tell you — there’s something so satisfying about making a big ol’ batch of delectable marinara sauce from scratch. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about taking shortcuts in the kitchen when they make sense, but for this dish, it’s go big or go home. Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and onions are absolute musts in this red sauce; the more aromatic, the better!
Of course, complementing the marinara goodness are the stars of the show: the penne noodles! I can’t help but get a kick out of watching these little tubes of pasta absorb that scrumptious sauce, becoming tender and oh-so-flavor-infused. Toss in some finely chopped veggies for a healthy boost, and suddenly you’ve got a nutritious meal that doesn’t even feel like you’re eating your greens. It’s what I like to call a clever trick of the culinary trade.
Now, here’s the pièce de résistance – that gorgeous, creamy béchamel sauce that elevates the dish from a simple pasta bake to an all-out feast. If you’ve never made béchamel before, don’t fret! It’s easier than a walk in the park but will make your dish feel like something out of a fancy-schmancy restaurant.
As soon as I take a steaming, cheesy, bubbly pan of Baked Penne out of the oven, the excitement in the room is palpable. My family and friends often gather around, forks at the ready – and let’s just say that plates get clean in record time. Hearing their satisfied sighs and seeing smiles light up faces as they dig into this culinary delight? That, my friends, makes it all worthwhile. Bon appétit!
- Gather ingredients: 16 oz penne pasta, 3 cups marinara sauce, 1-2 cups chopped veggies (options include bell peppers, zucchini, and spinach), 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 cups béchamel sauce (store-bought or homemade)
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish
- Prepare penne pasta according to package instructions until al dente (tender but still slightly firm); drain and set aside
- Warm up marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in chopped veggies; let it simmer for 5 minutes or until veggies are tender
- In a separate saucepan, prepare béchamel sauce (if making it from scratch)
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, whisk in 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to create a roux
- Gradually whisk in 2 cups of milk, continuously stirring to avoid lumps
- Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg, cooking until slightly thickened
- Remove from heat and set aside
- Combine cooked penne pasta and marinara-veggie sauce in a large bowl, mixing well to ensure even coating
- Layer half of the pasta mixture into the greased baking dish, followed by a layer of béchamel sauce, and then a layer of mozzarella cheese
- Repeat this process with the remaining pasta mixture, béchamel sauce, and mozzarella cheese
- Finish by sprinkling the grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the top layer
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown on top
- Allow the Baked Penne to cool for a few minutes before serving, then enjoy!
That was fresh!