For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were asked to think back to our earliest cooking recollections.
Let’s see…I think I started with canned soups before graduating to boxed mac and cheese (still delicious) and then onto fried egg sandwiches. Looking back, baked pasta was probably one of the first (semi-)homemade dishes that I brought to the table.
First versions were simple. Pasta. Jarred pasta sauce. Cheese. Maybe some dried oregano or basil if I was feeling fancy. There’s nothing wrong with this early take. It was easy, filling, and pretty cheap too. Perfect for those college days.
But the type of baked pasta that is most appealing to me these days looks a little bit different.
First, veggies. (20 year-old self apparently forgot all about those.) Butternut squash, mushrooms, sweet corn, red onion, and finely-chopped kale. Browned on the stovetop and then baked with pureed tomatoes and whole grain penne pasta, along with nutritional yeast, garlic, crushed red pepper, and sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage for an abundance of cozy, comforting fall flavors.
Out of the oven, stir in a liberal handful of hemp seeds (for texture, healthy fats, and protein). Plus more crushed red pepper and nutritional yeast. Seriously, and especially if you’re a spice- and/or cheese-lover, go wild.
This is the type of oven-baked meal that almost qualifies as stick-to-your-ribs. (Always appreciated in plant-based dishes, I know.) Without the worry of adequately cooking meat, this recipe is still fairly quick, making it a reasonable option for both Sunday and Tuesday evenings. When all is said and done, you should be eating in less than an hour.
As a time-saver, I cooked the pasta (until just before al dente) the night before, drained and tossed the cooked noodles with a little olive oil, and stored them in an airtight container in the fridge until I was ready to bake the next day.
(BTW, minestrone soup on deck for what’s left of the pasta.)
Baked, carb-tastic, stick-to-your-ribs pasta.
You could say a lot has changed since the first time I pulled baked penne out of my old apartment’s oven, but really, some things will always remain the same.
- 2-4 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or cooking oil of choice)
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 2¼ cups cubed butternut squash (1-inch cubes)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
- ¾ cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup halved baby bella mushrooms (or mushrooms of choice)
- ½ cup finely chopped kale
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
- 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, divided (optional)
- 2 cups cooked (to just before al dente) whole wheat penne (or short pasta of choice)
- 2-3 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage (look for them together in poultry seasoning mixes)
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and heat oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash cubes, salt, and pepper. Add additional oil as needed to prevent sticking, cover, and cook until squash is tender, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add garlic, corn, and mushrooms, cover, and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add kale, tomato puree, 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (if using), cooked pasta, and stir to combine.
- Place fresh herbs on top of mixture, cover, and place Dutch oven on center rack of oven. Bake about 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with hemp seeds and remaining nutritional yeast and crushed red pepper. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
What’s your first cooking memory?