Saturday 11 February 2012

Tomato Vegetable Rotini Bake

I don’t often buy tomato sauce but every once in a while I come across a coupon that makes it more affordable than the crushed tomatoes I usually buy.  When that happens, I buy several tins or jars and store them in our pantry. I used one of those tins of sauce to make our Meatless Monday supper this week.

My husband is carnivorous by nature.  He's never been a big fan of vegetarian meals but our budget requires that we eat less meat than we used to.  Pasta with a tomato based sauce is one vegetarian meal that he eats willingly so, whenever I’m stumped for a menu choice, it comes to mind.  The big guy likes it because it tastes like comfort food.  I like it because I can add lots of vegetables to it and he’ll still eat it.

I’ve never been able to make just a couple of servings of pasta.  I just can’t do it.  It’s not because I don’t know how to cook in small quantities, but more because pasta is so easy to make that I can see no reason not to make extra for lunches or for the freezer.  

This recipe makes eight servings.  I portioned out the leftovers and froze them on a cookie sheet before wrapping  and packaging them individually.  They can be reheated from frozen in the microwave, providing us with convenient lunches or a quick supper on a night when we’re too busy to cook.

To make Tomato Vegetable Rotini Bake, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 medium onion, cut into a small dice
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup of chopped sweet bell pepper (I used frozen)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (I used frozen)
  • 1-680 milliliter/23 ounce tin (or jar) of tomato sauce, or 3 cups of homemade sauce
  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked rotini
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano, plus a little more for sprinkling on top of the casserole
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste 
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • About 3 cups of grated cheese.  I used a mixture of shredded mozzarella and edam and some finely grated parmesan. 

Thaw the chopped spinach in the microwave and set it aside to cool.  Squeeze the spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.

Sauté the onion, celery, and sweet bell pepper together in a little olive oil.  When the onion is translucent, add in the garlic and sauté it for about 30 seconds more.

Reduce the heat to medium, then stir in the tomato sauce, carrots, and thawed spinach.  Add the zucchini.  If using frozen zucchini, cover the pot and cook until the zucchini is thawed.  Stir the sauce to mix the zucchini in, then season it with the oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Once the sauce is seasoned, reduce the heat to a simmer and start heating some water in which to cook the pasta.  When the pasta water comes to a boil, salt it and add in the rotini.

Cook the pasta al dente and drain it.  Stir the pasta into the sauce.

Transfer the sauce and pasta to a 9 x 13 inch pan and top it with the cheese. 

Bake the casserole at 350˚F for 20 to 30 minutes; until the cheese is melted and bubbly.   

Allow the casserole to rest 5 minutes before serving it.

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