The first time my future husband made this dish for me, I asked him what it was called and he said, “It’s just a pasta thing.” The Pasta Thing is just a baked pasta full of vegetables, and it can be anything you want it to be. The recipe varies based on whatever we happen to have in the pantry and the garden. We alternate between an Italian or Mexican version, changing spices to suit the day.
You can use cans of Rotel instead of plain crushed tomatoes for the Mexican version.
Other vegetables work, too. Swap chopped broccoli for the spinach.
Make it gluten-free with gluten-free pasta instead of regular pasta.
Make it vegan with cheese substitute.
[Updated October 2014.]
Pasta Thing (Baked Pasta)
- 4-quart sauce pan
- 8-quart pot
- 9×13-inch baking dish, lightly coated with cooking spray
- 1 pound shaped pasta (farfalle, rigatoni, gemelli, campanelle, penne, etc, cooked al dente)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium to large onion (chopped)
- 3 tablespoons garlic (minced)
- 2 carrots (grated)
- 1 medium to large green pepper (chopped)
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 15 ounces canned chunky crushed tomatoes ( or tomato sauce)
- 15 ounces canned red beans (or cannelini beans or black beans)
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (chopped)
- 2.25 ounces canned black olives (optional)
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
- 8 ounces grated cheese (Italian blend or Mexican blend or sharp cheddar)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 medium jalapeño peppers (diced (optional))
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Start water for pasta in the 8 quart pot. Cook the pasta while making the sauce.
- Saute onions, garlic and pepper in the 4 qt saucepan over medium high heat.
- Grate the carrots while the onions cook, then add the carrots to the saucepan. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes. Rinse the beans and add to the sauce. Add olives, mushrooms, and spices and stir.
- Thoroughly squeeze the moisture out of the the thawed spinach and add to the sauce.
- Drain the cooked pasta.
- Ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of the baking pan. Build in layers, starting with ½ of the cooked pasta, then ½ of the cheese, and some sauce. Layer in the rest of the pasta, some more sauce, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. You might have some leftover sauce.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is browned on top. Allow to sit 10-15 minutes after removing from oven.