Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pizza Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes are one of my family's favorite meals.  When I am unsure about a dinner idea, ole trusty pasta bakes see me through.  I keep various types of pasta on hand, plus spaghetti and cream sauces stocked at all times.  Recently there was a sale on a Mozzarella cheese sauce, Alfredos, pastas and hearty spaghetti sauces.   This recipe is a result of that sale.
 In all fairness, I can make my own 'gravy' and cream sauces which I enjoy, but sometimes time is not on our side and speedier backups are in order.  The fact that some family came by was the other determinate in this menu as well.
I had some fresh packaged Mozzarella Ravioli on hand and thought it would be awesome to double down on the cheesiness and add them as the top layer of the pasta bake.  The bottom layer consists of a mushroom spiked, saucy and beefy combination.  The pepperoni on the top and the fennel seeds lend the pizza like effect and adds to the overall decidedly Italian ingredient call that is this recipe.
 I rounded the meal off with some toasted cheesy garlic bread and gourmet/mixed green salad.  Steamed broccoli came along for the ride.  The kids were happy, the guests were too.  That makes me happy.  I guess it's the little things that make the world go around and I enjoy making folks smile, one recipe at a time!

1 lb. pkg. mezze penne 
1 family sized pkg. fresh Ravioli with Mozzarella
1 23 oz. jar spaghetti sauce with mushrooms
1 16 oz. jar of Mozzarella Cheese sauce
2 lbs. ground beef
2 tsp. powdered beef base, optional
2 oz. sliced pepperoni
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
sugar the taste, optional
Pinch of Herbs de Provence* (one of  my current obsessions)
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375*F.
Cook the mezze penne according to package instructions in salted water, to just under al dente, about 6 minutes, remove from pasta water and reserve the pot of water to cook the ravioli.
Cook the ravioli and remove from water, drain and drizzle with olive oil.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, drizzle large saute pan with olive oil over medium high and add onions.
Cook until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes and add the garlic.
Add ground beef and beef base and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Drain excess fat off beef and add spaghetti sauce and pinch of sugar and *HdP.
Reduce heat to medium, stirring often for several minutes.
Combine penne and meat sauce.
In a large oven safe baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and pour in penne with meat sauce.
Arrange ravioli over the penne, covering it completely, overlapping if necessary.
Pour Mozzarella sauce over the ravioli and spread evenly as possible from end to end.
Arrange pepperoni at intervals over top and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until bubbly and contents are heated through, about 25 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let stand before serving.
Serves Plenty with seconds or leftovers.

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