We’ve come to that point in our relationship where you’re either going to think I’m super cool or just plain lazy. Or maybe both. Lately, Kev’s been asking where are all those pasta bakes that I used to make. As if I’ve stuffed them into a box misplaced in the basement. “By the time I cook the noodles and make the sauce,” I said, “we might as well eat dinner rather than throwing it into another dish to bake even longer, another dish I have to clean. Also, have you heard her pre-dinner toddler grump?” But that got me thinking—I wonder if we can skip the whole boil-the-pasta part? If so, that might just give his beloved pasta bake a fighting chance around here.
This post was created in an ongoing partnership with Muir Glen Organic. Muir Glen harvests organic tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. Tomatoes go from field to can in 8 hours or less. When I shop for canned tomatoes, I stock my pantry with Muir Glen. Of course, all opinions/endorsements are my own.
So I tested parboiling the noodles in the same dish I baked it in. This method produced overcooked noodles with a prep time still too long. After several failed batches using this technique, I decided to try uncooked noodles. I make lasagna this way, but the noodle sheets are so thin, it didn’t seem like an trusty comparison. Either way, I did it. I stirred uncooked pasta noodles into my uncooked blended pasta sauce. Weirdest sound ever. I was doubtful. And the color of the tomato ricotta pasta sauce straight out of the blender, well, it wasn’t good. (Scroll down to see.)
But something magic happened after 40 minutes in the oven under a piece of foil. That horrible shade of pink turned into an appetizing red sauce, and the once hard noodles cooked to an al dente perfection. It happened under the watch of no one at all. It happened while I worked out in the basement.
This No Boil Pasta Bake is for the busy days—for the days you need to clean the house while dinner cooks because 10 people are coming over. For the days you need to squeeze in a workout because of all those Christmas cookies. For the days you just need a break from cooking dinner because it basically cooks itself.
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Mel’s Lazy Dinners. Until we meet again, try this recipe. Add spinach, red pepper flakes, or replace a bit of the water with vodka. And then write me back and tell me what you did with your 40 minutes of free time. Peace, love, and efficiency!
The assembly of this pasta bake takes about 5 minutes. Blend the sauce, stir in the uncooked noodles, and bake covered (and unattended) for 40 minutes. Finish it off with melty mozzarella and parsley. This recipe scales easily. I’ve written it for the lowest common denominator. As you scale the recipe up, scale the baking dish too. A good rule of thumb—the uncooked pasta should fill about 2/3 of the dish, no more.
Preheat oven to 375°. In a high powered blender, combine the tomatoes, water, parmesan, ricotta, cream, salt, oregano, basil, thyme, and garlic. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. The color of the sauce will look completely unappetizing. Just trust me.
Add uncooked pasta noodles into an 8″ x 6″ baking dish. Noodles should fill about 2/3 of the baking dish. If the uncooked noodles fill to the top of the baking dish, use a larger dish. Pour sauce over the noodles and stir to evenly coat. Sauce will cover all the noodles with the tops of the noodles barely peeking out. Cover the baking dish with foil. Place baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake for 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Stir. Pull hunks of mozzarella from the ball and place on top of the pasta. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes longer. Garish with parsley (optional) and serve.
• Be sure to use Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. I tried other varieties, but none packed enough flavor straight out of the can. The only cooking of this sauce happens in the oven. The fire roasted tomatoes give this sauce the head start that it needs.
• As mentioned, this recipe is written for a small batch but sizes up well. To serve 4-6, make a recipe + a half recipe and bake it in an 8″ x 10″ dish. You get the idea. As you scale up, scale the baking dish. It’s important that the baking dish is at least 2″ high as the noodles will expand greatly as they cook. The uncooked noodles should fill about 2/3 of the dish.