25 min. 20 min.
This is one of the first vegetarian recipes my husband and I created back in 2007 when we first started changing our diet. We had just begun experimenting with substituting vegetables and seasonings for meat, and this recipe was a huge success. We were so excited to cook something meatless which we enjoyed! We have continued to include this dish on our regular rotation for the 8 years since then, and it inspired us to use the same method to alter many other recipes in similar ways.
Although this uses a large amount of pasta, I have noted that it only feeds four people. This is because, due to minimal protein content, it is not as filling as most of my recipes, so we always end up eating a lot of it! This is probably not the best dish if you are trying to watch your carbs… sorry about that! Like I said, I was quite a novice when we came up with this. But it is so simple and yummy that I really wanted to share it with you anyway! If you serve this to four people, you might have leftovers for lunch the next day. I think there are worse things than that, and I wouldn’t want to leave you hungry!
Meatless Baked Pasta with Mozzarella
Modified from the Baked Cavatelli recipe in Better Homes and Gardens’ 75th Anniversary Cookbook
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
12 oz dried short pasta (I usually use whole wheat penne)
1/2 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup sliced olives
14.5 oz can Italian stewed tomatoes
1 2/3 cups pasta sauce (about half of a 26-oz jar) or 2 8-oz cans tomato sauce, seasoned to taste
4 oz mozzarella cheese
Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Put water on the stove to boil for the pasta. While waiting for it to boil, chop the onion and bell pepper; then smash, peel, and mince the garlic. When the water is ready, add the pasta and reduce heat to medium. Cook according to package directions (unless they say to cook it for more than 10 minutes, like mine did! If so, start with 8 minutes, test, and cook an additional minute if needed). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, fennel seeds, and pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes, until soft. Open the can of stewed tomatoes and chop with kitchen shears in the can until they are mostly in small pieces. Grate the mozzarella. Slice your olives if needed.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain and pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Add the cooked vegetables, olives, 2/3 cup of mozzarella, pasta sauce, and stewed tomatoes (chop any remaining large pieces with the kitchen shears). Stir it all around and distribute evenly in the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella, and heat for 5 minutes to melt the cheese on top.
It goes great with a Caesar salad!