Sunday, January 2

cheesy tomato penne bake

This was a combination of a few recipes from my new The Complete Vegetarian cookbook I found for half off at B&N yesterday. It has TONS of great sauce recipes, pasta recipes, appetizer, stuffed vegetable recipes and a billion different ways of incorporating nuts and beans into recipes. Not that I'm a vegetarian per say, but I like eating nuts, vegetables and beans more than meat, typically, and the typical meat portions are hard to cook for just the two of us.

Anyway, I added ground turkey I had frozen from another dish to this recipe, used a tomato sauce recipe from the book and made a really easy cheese sauce to hold it all together. The cookbook's author, Rose Elliot, used the cheese sauce in a couple of her lasagna dishes, but called for egg to hold her penne bake together. (However, I buy good, expensive eggs to eat for breakfast and quite honestly didn't want to use up my good eggs on a baked pasta dish) I had tons of cheddar cheese I was ready to use up and had been wanting to make my own tomato sauce for a while. Also, as I think about moving, I get frustrated with the crazy assortment of pastas I have stuffed in the back of the pantry. Two separate bags of, half used orzo, two versions of penne and enough spaghetti to feed a village. So this allowed me to get rid of the remainders of a penne bag as well!

cheesy penne pasta bake
1 cup penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/2 c. reserved pasta water
1/4 to 1/2 lb ground turkey, cooked and finely crumbled
tomato sauce:
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T. olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
cheese sauce:
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
5 - 6 oz milk
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. pepper
3/4 c. cheddar cheese or other sharp cheese
1/4 c. bread crumbs
Heat olive oil in large skillet or saucepan with lid. Cook onions covered with one bay leaf, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir briefly. Add tomatoes, seasonings and reserved pasta water. Allow to simmer about 25 minutes until visibly reduced. Add salt, pepper and italian seasonings to taste. Remove bay leaf.
Make the cheese sauce. I found a rubber whisk worked better than a metal one had. In pot that you made the pasta in, melt butter on medium heat with second bay leaf until bubbly. Add flour and whisk until smooth and slightly darkened in color. Remove bay leaf. Add about 1/3 of the milk and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the rest of the milk and whisk. Whisk until thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in all but 1/4 cup of the cheese, allowing each addition to melt. Add spices.
In a small baking dish (I used what I think was about a 9 X 5 pyrex) combine pasta, ground turkey, half of the bread crumbs, and all but about a 1/4 of the cheese sauce. Spread the rest of the cheese sauce on top, sprinkle with remaining cheese, remaining bread crumbs and some cracked black pepper. Bake on 350 for about 25 minutes.

{photo belongs to kraft as i'm too lazy to upload mine!}


  1. Congrats on one more bargain, my wise-shopping granddaughter! This recipe sounds delicious, too! Thank you, sweet Erin!

  2. This is really good with Italian sausage too! There's a recipe from food & wine that is sooo yummy but not quite as healthy unfortunately. And a link for you...