If you live where it has been pretty warm lately, you might not be inclined to fire up your oven anytime soon. Unless you are me who never seems to learn. I can't complain though when all that heat yields a baked pasta full of vibrant roasted vegetables and a crusty cheese top. With more and more vegetable selection showing up at the farmer's market, I knew it was time to give this recipe a try. My zucchini plants are enjoying this warm weather and are producing baby zucchini complete with gorgeous flowers. Hopefully soon I will be able to incorporate them into my pastas. I can't believe how impatient I am though!
Baked pastas are such great comfort food, this one in particular with all the flavors I love. Large wedges of zucchini, red peppers, summer squash, eggplant and mushrooms are all roasted and then mixed with a zesty tomato sauce, topped with cheese and baked to perfection. So open that kitchen window or hike up the air conditioning, because I promise this is worth enduring a little bit of extra warmth. If you live where it is still cool, I envy you.
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.