Dinner, Pasta
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Baked Penne with Arugula and Fontina

For when nothing but a huge bowl of cheesy pasta will do.

Every now and then, especially as my work picks up with the arrival of opera season, all I want for dinner is (more than one serving of) cheesy, rich, comforting baked pasta.

If it’s been one of those long weeks at work, or you just can’t deal with the laundry/holiday prepping/life tonight, this recipe is for you.

It’s the same idea as the classic Italian American baked ziti, but with greens and ziti’s sophisticated cousin penne for a virtuous upgrade.

With the holidays around the corner—which means quality family time, and therefore implies entertaining and cleaning—I also love this dish because of its simplicity. It only takes one pot (plus one for boiling pasta, but that hardly counts) and it satisfies even the most ravenous. Plus, it looks pretty and elegant for being a simple baked pasta.

“Oh this? I just threw it together.” — future you.

You could put this in a separate baking dish to go for more of a formal dinner, but I love serving it straight out of my Le Creuset cast iron buffet casserole. (I thought I’d never use this thing but I was so wrong. Best Ever Eggplant Parm, Cast Iron Chicken Thighs..this thing is a workhorse. Great addition to your cookware!)

Serving it out of cast iron is always a bit more rustic, but knowing there’s just one pot to clean makes this pre-holidays pasta even better.

Just look at that gooey goodness! The beautifully melty fontina drapes perfectly over these cute little penne. It melts better than your typical and expected mozzarella, which may result in a very stringy baked pasta. We don’t want that. We want the salty, buttery, smooth and rich but still delicate Fontina.

Now, you could certainly add mozzarella, parmigiano, ricotta—or even all three, because some nights just call for that—but fontina is the crucial cheese here because of its magical melting abilities.

I promise you won’t regret it.

In my family, we have fresh pasta on Christmas Day, and usually fish stew on Christmas Eve. This year, we’re adding homemade pizza to the Christmas Eve mix, which I’m really excited about.

I’m not sure how it goes in your family, but with so many Italians in one place, it always gets loud, and sometimes even a little heated. But hey—is it really Christmas without a little dysfunction? Hasn’t anyone seen “The Family Stone?”

For dessert, I’m making my surprisingly easy and delicious tiramisu, plus new crazy good cocoa cookies, which I’ll be sharing with you all soon if I can get myself together!

Did anyone else feel like the holidays crept up this year? I still have to go to the grocery store and I never thought I’d be so grateful for Amazon.

It seems like every year the holidays come and go faster and faster. I wish you all a lovely holiday! Cheers to slowing down and soaking it up before it’s gone.

Baked Penne with Arugula and Fontina

  • 1 lb penne or short pasta
  • Red sauce
  • 2 cups shredded fontina
  • Large bunch of fresh arugula
  1. Begin your red sauce in an oven safe deep skillet. If you don’t have one of these, you can use a standard pot and transfer your pasta to another dish for baking.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. When the sauce is just about done, nearly 30-40 minutes in, boil your pasta in salted water.
  4. When pasta is very al dente, slightly undercooked, add the pasta to your skillet with the sauce.
  5. Stir pasta in sauce to combine, adding about half a cup of the fontina and your greens until they are beginning to wilt. Don’t flatten your pasta so that it’s even on top – you want some penne sticking out and going in different directions to allow for those delicious toasted pasta like in the photos!
  6. Top with the rest of your fontina and bake until golden brown on top, about 15-20 minutes or so – be sure to check on it!

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