Saturday, May 02, 2009

Pasta al Forno (Baked Orecchiette with Homemade Tomato Sauce and Cheese)

Today we're going to play with some Orecchiette, which means 'little ears'.

Note the little ridges in the pasta. They will help hold the sauce.

This is a great pasta recipe that is kid friendly and can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. While the pasta is boiling we're going to make a quick homemade sauce that may turn you off from ever buying store made sauce again! (but if you want to cheat and buy a jar of sauce, it's okay, I won't tell)


If you don't have orecchiette, any smallish pasta will do. You can even use elbow macaroni if you want. You can bump this up a notch and use organic pasta or whole wheat pasta. This dish is often served as the pasta course for big gatherings in Italy. If you want to start with antipasto (meats and cheeses), then a salad, then a pasta course, then a meat course.... well you get the idea. Honestly? I just had this pasta dish for a meal. Plenty of food!

Baked Orechiette with Homemade Tomato Sauce - Serves 4 - 6

6 Points per serving for 6 servings.
This ingredients and instructions in italics are for the homemade pasta sauce. You can skip these if you are using a bottle or premade sauce.


  • 250 g dry Orechiette (about 3 cups)
  • Tomato sauce ( or you can use about 2 cups of bottled sauce)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp of dried oregano
  • 28oz/796 ml can of whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce with no added salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or 1 tbsp dried (dried is best with fussy eaters!)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 130g shredded mozzarella or about half of a ball of cheese.
  • another 1/4 cup of grated parmesan.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Cook the orechiette according to the package directions
  3. Tomato Sauce:
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a sauce pan
  5. Soften the onions and add the garlic. Cook for one minute
  6. Add in the tomatoes and dried herbs. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes
  7. Toss in the 1/4 cup of parmesan and the fresh basil if using
  8. Splash in about a tbsp of red wine vinegar
  9. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add more salt, pepper and/or vinegar until you get the taste you want.

  10. Toss half the sauce with the drained pasta

  11. Put half the pasta in a baking dish, top with half of the remaining sauce, mozza and parmesan cheese.

  12. Put the rest of the pasta on top, finish off with the remaining sauce and cheese. You can make it ahead up to this point and freeze or refridgerate.
  13. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes until crispy on top, golden and bubbling. (or if reheating, be sure the dish is completely defrosted and let sit at room tempeture for at least 30 minutes)

You can use whatever mozzarella you want however I recommended using the ball shaped mozzarella, also called stretched mozzarella and it's usually part skimmed so it's a little lighter in fat:

You can find these in the fresh pasta/italian cheese section of your grocery store. If you really want to punch it up, use the fresh mozzarella.

Make a big batch because this freezes beautifully.

(Sorry, had to wipe the drool from my chin...)

You can bump up the veggie content by blending in some pureed carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or spinach to sneak some in for the picky kids. Or just mix them in for the less fussy!

Nutrition Information based on 6 servings :Calories 291, Calories from Fat 80; Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 4g, Trans Fat 0g; Cholesterol 21 mg; Sodium 282 mg; Carbohydrates 39g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 6g; Protein 15g

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