Caprese Pasta Bake

One more proficiency and I’m pretty much free from the tight reins of school! We had a extraneously long midterm today and I felt like I needed an afternoon break to destress before returning to clinic again. Wednesdays are such long days. So what did I do? Bake some pumpkin bread! Currently baking in the oven and my house smells like fall. Yum! I contemplated chocolate chips, but decided to go for just good ol fashion pumpkin bread.

Smells like fall in a loaf!

Smells like fall in a loaf!

I decided to take the easy way out this time. I used Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix….it’s my afternoon off right?? It calls for vegetable oil, water and eggs, but I substituted with the water with milk and vegetable oil with melted butter to get a more moist bread, then popped everything in the oven in about 5 min. That’s about 30 min faster than me actually measuring everything out. And probably just the same cost as can of pumpkin! I’ll probably opt for fresh pumpkin cookies later this month instead.

I was also able to whip up something quick and easy over the weekend that would feed me for the rest of the week, too. I happened to have a lot of pasta sauce (Costco) I wanted to use, so I made a “Caprese” pasta bake. I also had some left over ground beef I threw into there too, but it can be vegetarian without the beef. Cook it, bake it, and store it in the fridge for food all week. Or you can make ahead and throw it into the oven when you’re busy too! I like to eat pasta with my “cheat” garlic bread. And by cheat, I mean super cheating – toasting bread with butter and garlic powder (hah!). Just something extra that compliments pasta, easy and quick and stuff I always have in my kitchen.

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Caprese Pasta Bake

Servings: 5-6

Prep time: 10 min, Total time: 45 min

Ingredients

  • 1 bag/16 oz of penne pasta (I opted for whole wheat) – cooked and drained
  • 1 1/2 Jar of Tomato sauce/Pasta Sauce
  • 1 small sliced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 roma tomatoes sliced, or 1/2-1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (optional)
  • 8 oz mozzarella – half of it cut in small chunks, half sliced
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Large baking dish (about 15×10)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

1. In a large pot on med-high, drizzle olive oil, and start cooking your onion and garlic until translucent.

2. Add in your tomato and ground beef. Cook until beef is browned.

3. Season with salt, pepper and about 1/2 tbsp italian seasoning.

4. Add in your penne and pasta sauce to the mixture. I always like to add a little milk/cream/pasta water to the pasta jar and shake it up to get all the pasta sauce out.

5. Mix well and slowly start to incorporate your mozzarella chunks into the hot pasta. It will start to melt and get gooey. Mix in a few torn pieces of basil.

6. Pour your pasta into a large baking dish (about 15×10). Arrange your sliced mozzarella on top.

7. Bake for 20 min or until pasta is hot and bubbling. Serve with fresh basil on top, fresh Parmesan  and some garlic bread!

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