Old-fashioned dishes and newfangled flavor Mamma mia! These baked pasta dishes have Mom-made appeal, plus some unexpected touches.

April 14, 1996|By SEATTLE TIMES

They're a little old-fashioned, at first glance.

But part of the appeal of baked pasta dishes is just that. They're warm and familiar, like something Mom might have made. Yet not overly familiar, if you jazz them up with great ingredients -- things Mom might have had a hard time finding or not thought of using.

There are, for instance, the seafood sausage, fresh dill and white wine in the baked seafood pasta in today's recipes. Shrimp, red bell peppers, onions and garlic are other attractions of the dish.

Convenience products make for easy preparation when you make baked tortellini, using packaged tortellini, pesto, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. But there's also a touch of fresh with onions and fresh garlic.

Sun-dried tomato pasta sauce is one of the lively elements in simple lasagna, which gains added flavor from basil, oregano, cayenne, mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Rounding out today's recipe collection is baked pasta al forno, with spiral pasta, Italian chicken sausage, crushed tomatoes, peas, basil and other seasonings.

Baked tortellini

8 servings

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 packages (9 ounces each) meat-filled tortellini

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup prepared pesto

1. Combine the onion, garlic and tomato sauce in a medium-size saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Cook the tortellini according to package directions, drain and briefly rinse with cold water. Drain again.

3. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with the olive oil. Place the tortellini in the dish and cover with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle on the mozzarella and dot with the pesto. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and again with aluminum foil. Freeze.

4. When ready to serve: Remove the plastic wrap and aluminum foil from the baking dish and place in the oven. Set the temperature at 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes. Stir the tortellini once during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

5. Let the tortellini cool 5 minutes before serving.

Baked pasta al forno

6 servings

olive oil spray or vegetable cooking spray

3 cups tiny spiral pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 pound Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups (about 10 ounces) diced mozzarella ( 1/2 -inch cubes)

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with the oil spray; set aside. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the pasta and time according to package directions. Drain and put back into the pan.

2. In a 9-to-10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the bread crumbs and stir for a few minutes until golden. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and chicken sausage, breaking up into small pieces with a spatula. Saute until the sausage is cooked through. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook 5 minutes.

4. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Add basil and peas, stirring well. Stir in the cubes of mozzarella, salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared pan. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate at this point.) Sprinkle the top with the grated cheese and toasted bread crumbs; drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a 400-degree oven 25 minutes, or until heated through. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

(From "Pasta Fresca" by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman)

Really simple lasagna

6 servings

oil or olive oil spray

1 (12-ounce) package cut lasagna noodles

1 (26-ounce) jar sun-dried tomato pasta sauce (see note)

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

pinch cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

L 2 cups shredded mozzarella-provolone cheese blend (see note)

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, or spray with olive oil spray.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the cut lasagna noodles and time according to package directions. Drain; transfer back to the pot.

3. Stir together the sauce, basil, oregano, cayenne, salt and several grindings black pepper. Stir into the pasta.

4. Layer half of the pasta into the baking dish. Dot with spoonfuls of the ricotta and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella-provolone blend. Layer the remaining pasta on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese blend and the Parmesan. Drizzle with the olive oil. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate at this point.)

5. Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

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