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Day 254: Baked Pasta with Garlic, Spinach, Zucchini and Goat Cheese

Today I wanted baked pasta. Lazy lasagna or something of that genre; tomato sauce, crispy cheese, maybe some spinach or sausage, stocky pasta you can pick up with a fork, like ziti, which is hard to find (unless you’re at the Italian market) so I usually substitute penne.

I had a container of spreadable black pepper goat cheese with a looming expiry date, and thought that instead of dropping spoonfuls of ricotta on my baked/faked lasagna, I’d drop bits of that. I went to get out the penne and remembered my vow to not buy any more pasta until I used up the collection of unusual shapes I always feel inclined to buy and then don’t know what the (H E double hockey sticks) to do with.

I was penneless. And truthfully, sick of the whole wheat rotini that has become W’s Puppy Chow. So I pulled out a bag of pennoni giganti (giant penne) and decided to just use it. They resembled mini cannelloni, so I imagined myself piping a lovely goat cheese mixture into each one (using a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) and baking them topped with tomato sauce and cheese.

After boiling them, they were twice their dry size and sat there like big slippery tubes of calamari. You can imagine how gracefully I filled them with a runny mixture of goat cheese, egg, spinach, sautéed zucchini and garlic. It’s a good thing we have a dog.

I quickly realized that pure goat cheese would be far too intense as a filling on its own – not like ricotta – and so tried to loosen it up with an egg and add some wilted spinach. Bagged spinach, by the way, is perfect to throw into the freezer – when you need chopped spinach you just crush the bag with your hands and it shatters, saving you the chopping. The second half of my bagged spinach always ends up in the freezer. So this time it ended up in a hot skillet with a bit of oil, and cooked down to practically nothing, so I panicked, rooted through my fridge and came out with a zucchini (roasted red peppers or sun dried tomatoes would have been good too), chopped it and sautéed it with a couple cloves of garlic, and added that too. And a spoonful of pesto. I just needed to bulk it up enough to fill the $%#!%@!! giant penne.

So I filled them as best I could, laid them awkwardly in a baking dish, poured tomato sauce over top, and grated part-skim mozzarella and Parmesan over that. Then baked it at 350 until it was bubbly and golden.

It turned out to closely resemble a lasagna; I could cut it into squares, even. Mike thought it was superb. And although I took the longest route possible to get my baked pasta (high-maintenance lasagna you might say; the opposite of lazy) it was exactly what I wanted for dinner.

The End.


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12 comments on “Day 254: Baked Pasta with Garlic, Spinach, Zucchini and Goat Cheese

  1. Dana mccauley
    September 11, 2008 at 5:19 am

    This meal looks great! And I agree, whole wheat pasta can be fatiguing. Sometimes you just need to eat the original.

  2. Fiona
    September 11, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I think your tip about freezing bagged spinach just doubled my disposable income. I can never eat the whole thing myself.

    Also, I must ask – what KIND of tomato sauce?

  3. JulieVR
    September 11, 2008 at 9:49 am

    The roasted tomato sauce I made awhile ago and froze – sorry, I added the link!

  4. Cath
    September 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    One thing I love about you: your creativity and freedom of spirit! You’re like a favourite art teacher who, with her students, joyfully splatters paint on a blank canvas to take away the intimidation factor. Only your paintbox is your pantry. You make the process of creating meals appear so colourful and accessible and, like in the creation of this meal, you seem to serendipitously produce masterpieces for the mouth! Like the generous soul you are, you share these moments with us. You are an inspiration, Ms Julie, and through your daily blog you encourage us to dip into our pantries more and start splattering along with you. . . What fun it is!

  5. Polythionic
    September 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Julie – HOW do you make such simple, everyday food (like a pasta-bake) seem so fascinating?! I aspire to write like you, I really do!

  6. Kate
    September 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Julie, love your blog.

    I was wondering if you have ever tried filling the pasta uncooked (so that they are easier to fill) and then layering them, putting them in a baking dish with the sauce. I’ve done that with cannelloni and it worked out fine, but then there was only one layer.

    I love that you are using up your supply of pasta, thanks for the inspiration.


  7. Cory
    September 11, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I’m going to have to make this when I return from holidays. It looks sooooooooooooo good.

  8. JulieVR
    September 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Kate, you are brilliant!! Why not? You can do it with lasagna sheets… I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here. You’d just have to make sure there was a lot of saucy sauce so that the pasta had enough moisture to soften it… I’m going to give it a try! thanks!

  9. Jess
    September 16, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    it’s funny, i actually made a similar dish, lasagna-style last night…and just finished eating the leftovers for dinner tonight…i did roasted red peppers and grilled zuchini layered with mozzerella and sauce…fresh and delish…only my husband said it needed meat…i didn’t agree:) lovely posts, by the way. always inspiring that i’m not the only one who digs deep into the freezer on occasion!

  10. ziege schaf
    April 2, 2010 at 4:52 am

    I really love goat cheese it is really delicous. Most of the time I eat it as a dessert or use it to make a salsa.

  11. Julia
    May 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for the inspiration! I made an ‘everything in the fridge’ baked pasta last night and it turned out great.

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