Baked penne is a super simple yet delicious meal, where every time I make it I feel like Super-Mom and my kids clean their plates. Please excuse me while I adjust my cape. Ha! This recipe is also almost like a lazy persons lasagna. I can be lazy, and I love lasagna, so truly it is a perfect pairing. And, I guarantee this will make it into your recipe rounds once you make it.
To start, I added a chopped onion, about a half a chopped bell pepper and some olive oil to a hot pot and began to sauté. I really like to keep the veggies small in this because I think it helps them to cook down faster, and I don’t think anyone wants to bite into a crunchy bell pepper in a lovely slow cooked sauce.
Once those pretty vegetables were nice and golden brown, the onions were translucent, and the bell pepper was softened, I added about 1/2 lb. of ground beef. I used 80/20 beef for this recipe, and for most all of my recipes that include ground beef just for the simple fact that I think it’s the most flavorful.
When the ground beef was browned and cooked through, I quickly strained the meat and vegetable mixture and tossed any of the excess fat and liquid. Then, when my mixture was nice and dry and free of the extra fat we don’t need, I returned it to the pan and started moving forward with the sauce.
Next, I added a jar of marinara sauce, I like the plum tomato and basil sauce, but obviously use which ever you’re most fond of. A can of crushed tomatoes, and a small can of tomato paste. The paste here really gives the sauce a deep rich flavor.
When everything was incorporated I simmered the sauce on low heat for about an hour. The cooking time makes a difference, the flavors really get a chance to develop when you do the low and slow method. Of course, in times where I have forgotten that dinner needs to be cooked, I have whipped this up in about 20 mins and served it over whatever pasta was in my pantry… it’s just fine that way too!
Now, time for the pasta. I boiled about 1/2 lb. of penne and set it aside to cool while I put together the meat sauce. Once I was ready for it, I added salt and pepper, about 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan, 1 egg, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tbsp chopped basil, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, and about 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese. Traditionally, baked penne uses ricotta cheese… But my family won’t go near ricotta, so as usual, do what works. If you can’t get mascarpone, cream cheese can work in a pinch too!
Here is the most important part – make sure whatever cheese you use is room temperature, or it will be next to impossible to mix together well. Your arms will thank you.
After the cheesy pasta mixture was fully incorporated, I added a couple spoonfuls of the meat sauce because… Why not?
Then, I repeated everything one more time, and covered the top with a little extra grated Parmesan.
I was pretty liberal with the cheese because if you can’t already tell, we are cheeseaholics in my house and will use the excuse to put cheese on anything. Seriously, it’s my go to thing. Throw some cheese in the recipe. Works every time.
So then I let it cool after I took it out of the oven for about 15 minutes and sliced it up. And then proceeded to eat every last bite on my plate and even wished I had given myself a bigger piece. So delicious! Enjoy!
Yield: 9 servings Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. Chopped basil
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 28oz. Can crushed tomatoes
1 24oz. Jar marinara sauce
1 6oz. Can tomato paste
1/2 lb. dry penne
1/4 mascarpone cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsps. Garlic salt (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by adding onions and bell pepper to a large pot and sauté until lightly browned and softened. Add ground beef and cook through, breaking it up into small pieces. When the beef is cooked, strain off or ladle out any extra fat or liquid from the bottom of the pan. Next, add the marinara, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tbsp basil, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let cook for 1 hour on low heat, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is cooking, boil the pasta, strain, and set aside in a large mixing bowl to cool slightly. When cooled, add the mascarpone cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, 1 tbsp basil, 1 tbsp parsley, and 1 egg. Mix well. Then add two large spoonfuls of meat sauce and mix again.
Now, preheat oven to 350F.
Next, in a baking dish, begin layering the cheesy penne mixture with the meat sauce. Start with a small layer of sauce, then add about half the penne mixture, and top with more sauce and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat steps one more time. Cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes allowing the the top to get bubbly and browned. Let cool for about 15 minutes after baking, then slice and enjoy!