Pasta `Casserole' done mostly on stove top

DINNER TONIGHT

April 23, 2008|By Renee Enna

This vegetarian Italian "casserole" is mostly a stove-top preparation. Instead of making our own marinara, we're using a good-quality jarred version. (But nothing's stopping you from using your own!)

Cooking the ingredients on the stove top, then popping a pan into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese and warm all the ingredients together, gives this entree the feel of a long-cooking casserole, minus the long cooking.

If you want meat, add chopped pepperoni to taste when you heat the sauce and mushrooms, or just use a meat-based pasta sauce.

This casserole presents a good opportunity to try less-familiar Italian cheeses, such as an aged Asiago, or one of the pre-shredded blends in the supermarket dairy case.

A hearty chianti or slightly mellower Montepulciano d'Abruzzo would pair well with this.

Renee Enna writes for the Chicago Tribune, which provided the recipe analysis.

Pasta `Casserole'

Makes 8 servings -- Total time: 30 minutes

1 package (16 ounces) medium pasta shells

1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce

1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup chianti or other dry red wine

1 bag (6 ounces) baby spinach or baby arugula

2 tablespoons chopped basil or to taste

2/3 cup shredded parmesan or Asiago cheese

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat stockpot of water to a boil; cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the marinara sauce, mushrooms and chianti in a large, deep skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Pour the pasta into a large baking dish; add the sauce mixture, stirring to combine. Distribute spinach over mixture; sprinkle basil over spinach. Sprinkle cheese over greens. Place pan in oven until cheese melts, about 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Per serving: 333 calories, 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 56 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams protein, 469 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber

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