What’s not to love about pasta, sauce, and cheese all baked together? Homemade marinara sauce with garden herbs adds an extra freshness to this dish. We’re not huge fans of ricotta cheese, so we replace it with a homemade white sauce called béchamel. Adjust the recipe if you prefer a different pasta shape, other cheeses, or more or less of any ingredient.
STEP ONE – Cook the Pasta
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add a full box (1 lb) of pasta and cook for one less minute than directed.
- Drain the pasta, rinse briefly under cold water, and set aside in a large bowl.
STEP TWO – Make the Marinara Sauce
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of minced onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes or 8-10 fresh tomatoes cut into small pieces with the seeds removed
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
2-3 leaves of fresh basil
- Heat the oil in a medium-size pan over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and spices and cook for 15 minutes until they’ve reduced to a hearty sauce. Puree if you like it smooth or leave it chunky.
STEP THREE – Make the Béchamel
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
1 cup of milk
- Warm the milk in a glass container in the microwave for 60 seconds. Set aside.
- Heat a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the butter.
- When the butter is bubbling, whisk in the flour until it’s well-incorporated.
- Slowly whisk in the warm milk, stirring continually until it becomes a smooth and thick sauce.
- Sprinkle in a little nutmeg and salt.
STEP THREE – Assemble and Bake
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and move the oven rack to the center.
- Spray a large 11×7” baking dish with canola spray.
- Combine the pasta, ½ of the marinara sauce, the white sauce, and ½ a cup of grated parmesan cheese until they’re well-mixed. Add to the baking dish.
- Spread the rest of the marinara sauce and 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese on top.
- Sprinkle a light layer of bread crumbs on top of the cheese.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
- Serve and enjoy!
Recommended serving size: 1 cup
Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 fat