I may not have great pictures of the dish but I have great memories from that meal. On Sikander’s birthday I wanted to do a especial meal-for-two but we also wanted to invite everybody so we did the latter for the birthday and I took a rain check on the meal-for-two.
Last week I finally did it! I took a picnic lunch for dear hubby to his office :). I wanted to make something portable so I decided to do a baked pasta, something which I had never tried before. And tomato and cheese is always a winning combination so I decided to do just that. I had learned a red sauce recipe when I was volunteering at Seva Café and I searched on the Internet for baked pasta and came across Rachael Ray’s Tomato, Basil and cheese baked pasta recipe. I finally used both the recipes, adding my own inputs in between :).
I packed my basket with Baked tomato and cheese pasta; garlic bread; olive oil; plates; forks; napkins and soda (I would have preferred alcohol but it was office hours!) :D. I wanted the lunch to be a surprise, but I had to tell me beforehand, lest he would have had lunch at the office cafeteria. While the lunch wasn’t a surprise; the lunch menu was and it bowled him over! On the first bite he says “This is awesome. This is the best pasta I have had”. I know the pasta was good but the whole experience of me bringing the lunch and then laying the table with the few things I had got and eating together added to the taste. I can just share the recipe here, but you can add your magic touch to take it to awesome! 🙂
And here’s what I did!
Tomato and Cheese Baked Pasta
Preparation Time: 30 mins| Cooking Time: 45 mins| Serves 2
250 gms chifferi pasta [I used chifferi, but any small bite size pasta like shell or penne would be fine]
4-5 [~200gms] onions, sliced
8 red tomatoes, blanched and pureed
8-10 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly crushed black pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp sugar [the sugar cuts the sourness of tomatoes in the sauce]
6-7 fresh basil leaves, torn loosely [I used tulsi, the Indian Basil]
3 tbsp Olive oil
4 tbsps store bought pesto sauce [this idea is from Rachael Ray’s recipe]
1½ cup grated cheese. I used a regular cheese we get at the local dairy… It’s not any specialty cheese.
- Heat oil in a wide non-stick pan. When the oil is hot add chopped garlic and sauté for a minute till you get the fragrance of garlic.
- Add onion slices and cook for 4-5 minutes till the onions start to brown.
- Add the blanched and pureed tomatoes. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes; stirring in between.
- Once the sauce starts to bubble, add basil leaves, salt, pepper, dried thyme & oregano and sugar. Mix it well and leave the sauce on low flame to reduce. It should take around 10 minutes. Occasionally stir the sauce so that it gets cooked evenly and doesn’t stick to the pan. If the sauce starts to sputter out of the pan, cook it covered. It will take slightly longer but would reduce the mess :).
- While the sauce is getting reduced. Heat around 6 cups of water in a deep saucepan and add the pasta with some salt and olive oil. Cover and cook till the pasta is almost done. It should be a little under-cooked as the pasta will continue to cook after it is drained. [This tip also comes from Rachel Ray’s recipe :)]
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add the pesto sauce to it. Coat the pasta well with the pesto sauce.
- In a baking dish; add one layer of pasta coated with pesto, then a layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of grated cheese and repeat for one more time.
- Bake at 200 C for about 5 minutes till the cheese has melted.
- Take the dish out of the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes; close it with the lid and get your picnic basket ready! Serve with garlic bread and lots of love 🙂
The quantity is actually enough for 3-4 people but then it was so tasty that we had only like a cup of it leftover! 😛
The red tomato sauce recipe for the pasta is what i learnt at Seva Cafe; you can simply toss the cooked pasta in the red sauce and it tastes great as well! But Rachael Ray’s touch of pesto, makes it even better! 🙂