Easy cheese and tomato pasta bake for nights where you want something delicious and comforting to eat but can’t be bothered to spend ages in the kitchen.
So here’s something you might not know about me: I am obsessed with pasta bakes. I could honestly eat baked pasta of some sort every.single.day. I think it’s a combination of al dente pasta in a flavourful sauce (pretty obvious stuff) covered in a crust of rich cheese AND the fact that I mostly make pasta bakes early on during the day (or even a day ahead) and just pop them into the oven to bake 30 minutes before I want dinner to be served.
This cheese and tomato pasta bake recipe is a great cheat’s version of something meatier like my Bolognese pasta bake which is equally delicious but requires a little more work. The tomato sauce in question can be made two ways. If you want a richer, more intense tomato flavour, roast off tomatoes (plum/roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes work well) with garlic, herbs, salt and pepper until they are caramelised and starting to char a little and continue with the sauce method as stated below. If you want dinner in a flash, use a few cans of cherry tomatoes and call it a day. The flavour won’t be quite as concentrated but the end result will still be completely delectable.
This recipe is great to make ahead and freeze and the leftovers are particularly delicious doused in hot sauce the next day. Just saying.
Easy cheese and tomato pasta bake
for the tomato sauce
- 2 x 400g 14 oz cans cherry tomatoes
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika optional
- pinch of chilli flakes optional
- 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar to taste (optional)
- ½ cup vegetable stock/red wine
- salt & pepper to taste
for the pasta bake
- 500 g 1lb short pasta of your choice (I used penne)
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- fresh basil to serve
- Pre-heat the oven to 200ºc.
- Fry the onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil until soft and translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, Balsamic, sugar and stock/wine and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes while the pasta cooks. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta's cooking water.
- When the pasta is cooked and the sauce is reduced, combine and mix well. Add some of the cooking water saved from the pasta to loosen the pasta and sauce a bit.
- Transfer half the pasta mix to a baking dish, add half of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining pasta and cheese.
- Place the pasta in the pre-heated oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown.
- Remove and allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving with fresh basil.