Thursday, April 22, 2010

Baked Penne with Feta and Olives -- I Heart Cooking Clubs

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs the theme was Pot Luck, and let me tell you, I bet this would be one of the first dishes to 'clean out' at a pot luck because it is so delicious!

After seeing Deb's yummy pot luck pasta dish I had a serious pasta craving and paged through Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian until I found a suitor -- Baked Ziti! Bittman calls this old school baked ziti with red sauce a short-cut to lasagna and a pot luck staple -- perfect :)

In the preface to this recipe he says, Whatever you do, don't overcook the pasta! It should be too tough to actually eat when you mix it with the sauce, which will make it perfect after baking.

There are a few variations of the basic recipe listed and I went with the Baked Ziti with Goat Cheese and Olives version, but swapped the ziti for penne and swapped the goat cheese for feta. In the variation you are to swap out the original 1 lb mozzarella in the recipe for the goat cheese, and being the cheese lovers we are, I decided to just use 1/2 the mozzarella and half the goat cheese amount (as feta) so we got some of both cheeses.

Baked Penne with Feta and Olives

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic (I used 5 cloves of roasted garlic, smashed)
1 - 28 ounce can tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid (I used two 14 ounce cans of San Marzanos)
1 lb ziti or other large cut pasta (penne worked well as a ziti substitute)
1/2 lb mozzarella
1/2 lb crumbled feta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup pitted olives, in large pieces (I mostly halved them and quartered a few)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 400.

Add the olive oil to a large pan, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes and olives, bring to a boil. *I added 2 tbsp sugar to the tomato sauce, I was brought up on and love a sauce with a touch of sweet* Turn the heat down so that the mixture bubbles and gently cooks, stirring occasionally, while you cook the pasta; don't let the sauce get too thick.

Cook the pasta until just tender; it should still be too hard to eat. Drain it, don't shake the colander, let some water still cling to the noodles. Toss the pasta with the sauce and about half of the mozzarella and feta.

Grease (or spray with cooking spray) a large 9 by 13 baking dish and pour or spoon the pasta mixture in. Top with the remaining mozzarella and feta and the parmesan.

Bake until the top is browned and the cheese is bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes.

This was such a flavorful dish, even with such minimal ingredients. I absolutely loved it the first night. Those who tried it loved it too, but some people, like picky husband, could not be persuaded to try this because of the (small!) hunks of tomato and, gasp, black olives. Sigh. I almost always have to make two meals because he is so picky. Oh-well. This is one of my new favorite baked pasta dishes and I can't wait to try Mark's other variations. I don't know how anyone could pass on this one, it smelled amazing with the the garlic and the feta, who can resist a cheesy saucy baked pasta?


The Country Cook said...

Oh wow this looks delicious! Now I have a craving for pasta!

Anonymous said...

Yummy - Greek pasta :-)

Carla and Michael said...

Looks and sounds wonderful. I know I can't resist pasta and ooey, gooey cheese. Yummy.

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Andrea, this looks fantastic - I will be making this one for sure. My partner is also a very picky eater and, like you, I often make two different meals. He would eat this though, and enjoy it, but he would just pick the bits of olive out. I often make big batches of different pasta sauces and freeze them, then on a night when I make him a steak or something like that, I just whip something out of the freezer for my meal. Seems to solve the two meal situation quite well.

Kim said...

Pasta with red sauce and feta is a beyond delicious combination. That yummy salt feta cheese is some good stuff! This is definitely a recipe that would get gobbled up at a potluck right away;D

You and Deb are both inspiring me to make some pasta!!

jackieskitchen said...

hi there! i made this last night and my roommates loved it!! my partner even said that it may have turned him into an olive lover! thanks so much. xo

Debinhawaii said...

Yay to the feta! This looks easy and delicious--the two things I like most in a recipe. Great pick!

Tiff said...

Oh yum!! Feta and olives are two of my most favorite foods! This looks incredibly delicious.

Joanne said...

I would be all over this if I saw it at a potluck! I love the changes you made and the Mediterranean flavors this has.

the lunch guy said...

i have never understood people's aversion to olives, especially with pasta.

i make a similar dish to this quite often. basically it is the same but i add veggies. small cubes of olive oil sauteed eggplant and zucchini, and home roasted pimento. then i add a small bit of gorgonzola cheese to the mix.

typically i make it in a turkey roasting pan so i have way too much to stash away in the freezer for those days when i have no time or inclination to cook.

adel d. said...

youre such a great cook! ive been looking at your site for about a month now. its unfortunate that your husband is so picky! hopefully he'll eventually get used to trying different things! he's so lucky to have such a great wife who cooks well, it makes food so much more fun!

AKX said...

Just made an, ah, el cheapo variant of this, with pre-cubed feta and pre-seasoned (chili and garlic) crushed tomatoes. Ended up being quite delicious though, so thank you for the recipe. :)

Oh, and for other European readers who might be having trouble with crazy American units, I used two cans (tetras, really) of tomatoes and 250ish grams of feta. That scaled to one A4-sized baking dish.

superman said...

Wow!this looks so great and delicious!

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