Baked Ricotta Penne Pasta

August 2, 2012 - Written by Diana

Baked Ricotta Penne Pasta  Bake

Penne is one of my favorite tubular pastas – the sauce seems to cling in and around the pasta better than some of the others while keeping the tube shape.  I love to cover it in a meat sauce and layer it with ricotta.  Since I was reviewing TJ Gallivan’s Pasta Sauces, I used La Matrice to make my Baked Ricotta Penne Pasta.

TJ Gallivan’s Sauces are great when you don’t have the time to make the sauce yourself.  They are full of tomato flavor – that’s something my kids and I noticed right away, how the tomato stood out.  The other big plus was how thick the sauce is and how well it clings to the pasta. I love a sauce that sticks.

TJ Gallivan's Pasta Sauces

The Tradizionale – is a sauce full of tomato, garlic, basil and oregano and is the mildest of the three sauces.  My daughter liked this because she thought it was customizable.  She could take the sauce plain, or if she wanted to punch up the basil a little more, she would add more basil and it wasn’t competing with any other spices.

La Matrice  – has a bit of zestiness to it with tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers and herbs.  This was what I used in my Ricotta Penne Pasta Bake.  I like the sauce a little kick when I’m cooking with cheese, otherwise it can get too muted – so La Matrice was just perfect.

Arrabbiatta – If you like a bigger kick with a bit more spiciness, then Ariabatta is for you.  It still has a great tomato flavor, but it’s very spicy with tomato, basil, oregano, garlic and red pepper.  It’s a little more adventurous than the other two.


I used La Matrice in with the Penne Ricotta dish I made for dinner.  The sauce  was mixed in with ground beef and poured over the penne which it clung to nicely.  I nestled dollops of ricotta in between layers of penne and sauce and also on top before sprinkling grated parmesan over top.  The three of us ate almost the whole pound of penne I cooked up – it was so good, my husband had difficulty stopping.

The sauce was provided by a former Cookerati blogger – Buff otherwise known as Thomas Tilert who has moved on to his own entrepreneur buisiness of pasta sauce making, and the company does rubs and spice mixes as well. My review is my honest opinion and I recommend the sauce.  I interviewed Thomas Tilert about how he got started in the pasta sauce business.  If you are thinking of going into business yourself, it has some interesting information.

Here’s my Ricotta Penne Pasta Bake:

Baked Ricotta Penne Pasta
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This baked recipe with tomato sauce penne and ricotta, makes a really good hearty meal.
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 6
  • 1 lb ground beef (or bison)
  • 1 onion diced.
  • 2 green peppers diced
  • 1 lb Penne Pasta
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (I used TJ Gallivans, but you can use your own)
  • 1 container ricotta
  • grated parmesan
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cook ground beef, onions and peppers together until the beef is browned.
  2. Drain and set aside.
  3. Boil water and cook penne pasta according to package directions.
  4. Drain water.
  5. Add sauce to browned meat and stir to combine.
  6. Layer this way:
  7. Sauce
  8. Penne
  9. Sauce
  10. Dollops of Ricotta
  11. Grated Parmesan
  12. Penne
  13. Sauce
  14. Dollops of Ricotta
  15. Grated Parmesan
  16. Bake at 350 until the Sauce is hot and thick and the cheese is melty.
The pasta and the beef mixture can be prepared ahead, and assembled at the last minute. Don't pour the sauce over the pasta early or the pasta will absorb it



Orzo, Asparagus and Garlic Scapes in Garlic Scape Pesto

May 29, 2012 - Written by Diana

What to eat when it’s hot outside ? A salad with pesto as the dressing is better than mayo or heavy dressings and parts of it can be made ahead of time to be combined sometime later before you eat.  Both my husband and my son enjoyed this for dinner, my husband loved it so much he finished off whatever was leftover that same evening.

I received garlic scapes in my market bag and used it in the pesto and the salad itself, chopping it into pieces about one to two inches in length.  I cut the asparagus and the leeks to the same size as the garlic scapes (though they weren’t used in the pesto).  I prepared this again with more asparagus for our Memorial Day family gathering, but I have broccolini that would work well and so would fresh peas.

Garlic scapes are substituted for garlic in this dish, I used it in the pesto and the salad.  They are the seed heads that shoot up among the garlic, cutting the scape off is supposed to lead to a bigger head of garlic.  While you are patiently waiting for your garlic to grow, you can cut off your scape and substitute it in your recipes.


Orzo, Asparagus and Garlic Scapes in a Garlic Scape Pesto
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A cold pesto and pasta salad.
Recipe type: Pasta Salad
Serves: 4-6
  • Bunch Parsley
  • Bunch Oregano
  • 2 Garlic Scapes
  • Bunch Basil
  • ¼ cup Pine Nuts divided
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 oz dried Orzo
  • 8 Asparagus stalks
  • 4 Garlic Scapes
  • 2 Leeks
  • Pine Nuts
  • Grated Parmesan
  1. Place all Pesto ingredients into a food processor or magic bullet.
  2. Drizzle olive oil in and pulse.
  3. Check to see if the pesto is the right consistency - it should be loose enough to toss with salad and coat the pasta, but not too loose that it will just slide right off.
  4. If it isn't loose enough add more oil and pulse again.
  5. Cook Orzo according to package directions.
  6. Slice the garlic scapes, the asparagus and the leeks.
  7. The leeks will need to be rinsed again so that all of the dirt and sand is removed.
  8. Drain pasta and the vegetables and toss together.
  9. Toast Pine Nuts and add to the Pasta
  10. Toss the pesto with the pasta salad.
  11. Sprinkle Parmesan, salt and pepper and toss again.
If it is a side, it will serve more than if it is the main dish. To make ahead, keep pasta and veggies separate from the pesto because pasta will absorb the oil. Combine right before using.


I’m adding a note here that I’m entering this pasta salad as my entry for Culinary Smackdown – Battle Salad.  Come visit and see the entries.


Chicken, Penne and Broccolini – Leftover Remix

January 11, 2012 - Written by Diana

Sometimes I am at odds with my son about dinner.  If it takes too long, he won’t bother.  If he has to read directions, he won’t bother.  If it takes too many pots and pans, he won’t bother. This isn’t to say he’s hopeless or can’t cook.  Slowly we are building up his repetoire and the meals he does cook are very delicious.  My method with him is to encourage him to try to experiment by adding different vegetables and herbs to a basic recipe.

This time we took some chicken from our roast chicken the other night and added pasta, some broccolini, a few herbs, smash some galic and voila – dinner is served.  This is a good college kid meal, you can change up the pasta, the veggies, substitute the oil with broth to make it a little lighter.  Swap the lemon with white or red wine vinegar for a little different.  We stood side by side at the stove cooking this dish.  When we were done, I asked my son if he thought he could do it all over again, and he assured me that he could.

Chicken, Penne and Broccolini - Leftover Remix
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This is a good throw together recipe. Tonight we used leftover
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6
  • 1 lb pasta (penne)
  • Nice bunch Vegetables (broccolini)
  • 1½ cups cooked meat (leftover chicken)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Herbs and other veggies (dried tomatoes, basil)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Olive Oil (or broth)
  • acid (lemon juice)
  1. In a pasta pot, boil water and cook pasta. When the pasta is pre-al dente add in any fresh veggies that need to cook through.
  2. In a separate saute pan, heat up about 2 tbs of olive oil. Add in garlic to saute, along with the pre-cooked chicken and any defrosted frozen veggies or dried veggies. Stir around, heating up the chicken, veggies and herbs.
  3. Zest the lemon over the saute, then squeeze the juice over top.
  4. Drain the Pasta and Cooked broccolini, toss with the pan of saute.
  5. Grate parmesan over top, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
I taught my son how to hold a lemon the cut end over the palm of your hand and squeeze the juice over your cupped hand to keep the seeds from going into the dish.


Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine with Asparagus to Celebrate!

October 21, 2011 - Written by Diana

Tonight’s dinner was a reward dinner for my mom.  She’s been going through a lot recently, diagnosed with breast cancer and last Tuesday had a “simple” mastectomy.  I flew to NJ to take care of her, and we weren’t sure how well it would go.  She was diagnosed early and I think that was the key along with her always upbeat attitude.  The celebration is because her recovery is going so well and the doctor is very happy with her progress. She deserves it don’t you think.

I made a tasty quick dish, with some of her favorite foods.  Shrimp, garlic and asparagus are on that list as well as seeds and nuts.  My ingredients were limited.  I did stop at Whole Foods, but I didn’t want to load up her fridge with fruit and vegetables that would go bad after I left for home. I also wanted leftovers.  I froze a couple of individual meals for my mom to reheat for dinner once I’m back in Ohio.  I think if you reheat with a little chicken broth it will be very tasty.   This meal was made in 30 minutes or less, with very little mess, and I reused the saute pan over for the ingredients so as to cut down on the cleaning.


Cook up Fettuccine in water according to directions, drain and set aside.

In a saute pan.  dry toast the sunflower seeds, then set aside on a plate or bowl.

Add one or two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan heat and then throw in half the minced garlic and the shrimp, and saute the shrimp until pink and firm.Set aside with the sunflower seeds.

Add another tablespoon of oil, the other half of the minced garlic, heat, throw in the asparagus and cook until it’s al dente.

Chop Parsley and toss all of the ingredients together with some salt and pepper.

Serve with grated percorino romano cheese over top.

Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine with Asparagus to Celebrate!
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A fast pasta dish that feels very special with fresh asparagus and shrimp added.
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Fettuccine
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined raw shrimp
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 tbs sunflower seeds
  • handful fresh parsley
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese
  1. Cook up Fettuccine in water according to directions, drain and set aside.
  2. In a saute pan. dry toast the sunflower seeds, then set aside on a plate or bowl.
  3. Add one or two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan heat and then throw in half the minced garlic and all of the shrimp, and saute the shrimp until pink and firm.Set aside with the sunflower seeds.
  4. Add another tablespoon of oil, the other half of the minced garlic, heat, throw in the asparagus and cook until it's al dente.
  5. Chop Parsley and toss all of the ingredients together with some salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with grated percorino romano cheese over top.




Minty Spring Asparagus & Pasta with Lamb Mint Sausage

April 7, 2011 - Written by Diana

The last time we had Lamb Mint Sausage there were a few who said they didn’t know if lamb and mint went together.  I love mint and I think the lamb mint sausage are very tasty, but it is a very mild flavor.  I wanted to up the mint factor this time.  So, I made a mint and parsely pesto to use with gemelli pasta and some asparagus, one of my favorite spring time foods.  Of course I added some lamb mint sausage because I thought it would be the perfect thing to round out the dish.

For dinner, the pasta was warm when mixed with the pesto and the warm asparagus and sausage.  The next day cold leftovers were even better.  I think my mother will love this dish so much that I’m going to make it for her when she visits this summer.  She has strict dietary restrictions and we have to go without tomatoes, onions and she doesn’t like heavy sauces, so this will be perfect for her.  You could substitute beans for the sausage, or even use a grain instead of pasta for a salad.  This salad embodies spring, lovely light taste, lots of pretty green – and lamb too.  First ingredient fresh from the garden this year – parsley!  Yay!


In a food processor, or magic bullet, pulse the mint, parsley, pine nuts, shredded romano cheese and drizzle olive oil while pulsing.  Cut the asparagus and the green onion into bite size pieces and saute in pan with olive oil.  Saute the lamb mint sausage separately in another pan.  After the sausage rests, slice the sausage into bite size pieces.  Toss the pesto, asparagus and green onion and the sausage together with the cooked (and drained) pasta.  Salt and pepper to desired taste and serve.

Farfalle with Creamy Peas and Carrots

March 25, 2010 - Written by Diana

We had to stop ourselves from eating too much for dinner tonight.  Another family weeknight meal that came together quickly.  Pasta comes together quickly and goes great with most veggies.  The carrots were thinly sliced using a mandolin and added along with peas to the sautéed onions and pancetta. Cream and parmesan were added in and heated up along with some parsley.  Toss with the cooked farfalle and dinner is ready.  We made a pound of pasta, so we’ll have enough for a leftover meal too. I had to put a restraining order on my son though.  He’s forbidden to touch the pasta for a snack – otherwise the rest of us will go hungry.

Farfalle with Creamy Peas and Carrots



Sauté onions in olive oil after about a minute add in pancetta.  When onions are translucent, add in peas and carrots. When carrots are soft, pour in cream and warm.  When cream is heated, add in parmesan cheese, herbs and spices.  Toss pasta in a large bowl with the cream and veggies mixture.  Serve warm.  Fast, Easy and Delicious.

Farfalle with Spinach and Tomatoes & a Little Pinot Grigio

February 6, 2010 - Written by Diana

Along with the Grilled Rosemary Shrimp last night, we had Farfalle with Spinach and Tomato.  This wasn’t spinach from my garden, but it was organic fresh spinach from the fresh vegetable section of the grocery store.  I used about 8 to 10 handfuls; it’s amazing how little you end up after it wilts down.  The tomatoes were Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes with perfectly sized pieces.  My husband doesn’t care for shrimp, so he went vegetarian and just ate this pasta dish.  I splashed on some Pinot Grigio at the end, which gave it a nice burst of flavor.  I think this is one of my best tasting efforts and so easy to make.

Farfalle with Spinach and Tomatoes        Ingredients:

8 oz. Farfalle pasta

1 shallot sliced thin

3 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced

8 –10 handfuls of spinach rinsed and drained

7 oz tomatoes drained (about half the can)





1/2 cup Redwood Creek Pinot Grigio

Crumbled Feta

Parmesan Cheese


Cook Farfalle according to box directions, drain.  In a large skillet, heat up olive oil, then sauté shallot and garlic.  When they are almost to caramelized stage, throw in spinach and wilt.  Add tomatoes and stir.  Toss farfalle in with the spinach and tomatoes and toss, cooking out most of the liquid (a couple of minutes at most).  Throw in herbs, salt and pepper, splash with wine and toss again until warmed up.  Sprinkle with feta, toss and grate parmesan over top.  Makes about 4 servings.

Big Bowl of Whole Grainy Dinner Goodness

January 27, 2010 - Written by Diana

Tonight’s dinner was inspired by a store bought frozen lunch I had today.  It had beans, whole grain orzo, dried cranberries, spinach and a little bit of cheese.  I enjoyed it quite a bit and thought I would use it as inspiration to create my own big bowl of whole grainy goodness. Even though the barley and quinoa stuck to his braces, my son thought it was delicious.  My husband also liked it a lot too.  I know my daughter would have enjoyed it, and that she would have grabbed the leftovers thrown salad dressing over top and had it cold for lunch the next day.  One thing I would have changed would have been to add in more chard.  I dug through the snow to find what chard I could from the raised beds in the garden.  I found some small leaves, only about 7 or 8, but it was enough to give it a little color and flavor.  I just wish I had more.  It’s so cool to go dig through the snow for chard in the middle of winter, but your fingers get awfully cold and you have to be careful that they don’t stick to the door knob when you try to get back into the house.  Maybe gloves would be a good idea. No gloves needed to eat it though, just a fork.

Jan 27, 2010 074 Ingredients:


Cook the quinoa, bulgur, orzo and barley according to package directions using vegetable broth instead of water. I took turns with two different small pots on the stove.  In a separate medium size pot, pour in the rest of the vegetable broth.  Simmer the onions, and celery in a shallow amount of vegetable broth. When they start to become translucent, add in the rest of the broth, the cranberries and spiced apple, the beans and chopped up chard.  Heat up and add in the grains, and the herbs and spices.  If it seems too dry, add a little extra liquid (water) when heating. Serve in bowls and sprinkle the cubed cheese on top. 

Note: To make it vegan, leave out the cheese.

The dried fruit gives it a fruity flavor, with the smoky cheese to help balance it out.  The whole meal is delicious, and very quickly comes together.

Campanelle and Pancetta in a Smoky Cheddar Goat Cheese Sauce

December 21, 2009 - Written by Diana


I made this to go with the barbecued ribs we had for dinner the other night.  Macaroni and Cheese is a classic meal to go with barbecued ribs, but I had Smoky Cheddar Goat Cheese, so I thought I’d put in a few  little twists.  The campanelle is a nice sturdy pasta that holds cheese well and the pancetta ups the smoky factor nicely.  The Smoky Cheddar Goat Cheese looked and tasted drier than I expected, so adding a little extra milk or cream was necessary.  However, in a sauce it was terrific tasting.  The cheese is Misty Creek Goat Dairy Cheddar Goat Cheese Smoked from U.S. Wellness Meats.  I didn’t want a thick creamy sauce because I thought it would overpower the pancetta, so it was more of a light cheese sauce – at least for me. 

Misty Creek Goat Dairy Cheddar Goat Cheese Smoked Ingredients:


Cook up Campanelle according to box instructions, drain in colander.  In a deep pan, cook up the pancetta removing it from the pan right before it is crispy.  Add the butter to the pan and turn down the heat a little so it melts and doesn’t burn. When it is melted stir in the flour until all the liquid is absorbed, and pour in the milk and whisk until thickened.  Add in the cheese and stir until evenly melted. Add Salt and Pepper as desired.  Transfer to another pan for use in the oven, top with grated parmesan and broil for a minute.

Because this cheese is a white, and I used whole wheat flour, the sauce is a little brown looking, as opposed to a yellow cheddar sauce, but was still delicious.  I loved the extra smoky bites whenever you got a bite of pancetta.


I also used the Smoked Cheddar Goat Cheese for an egg dish the next day and it melted nicely in with the eggs and veggies.  This is more of a shredding cheese and melting cheese, than a cheese and cracker cheese because it’s a little dry.  Delicious in your Campanelle and Pancetta, or your egg dishes.  Great topping for potatoes or sloppy joes or cauliflower.

Butternut Squash, Sausage and Campanelle Pasta

December 13, 2009 - Written by Diana

I had some great butternut squash just waiting for me to find the time to do something great with it. I put off using squash because it takes a while to seed and peel, but it’s such a terrific ingredient.  I found some soup recipes, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  So I came up with a pasta dish that was really tasty good, and hopefully good for you.  The only change I’d make is to cook the butternut squash a little bit less.  I used about a 1/2 of a butternut squash, and probably I should have used only a half a pound of sweet italian turkey sausage.  There were three of us at dinner, plus enough leftovers for two people, so cutting down the sausage makes sense.  There isn’t a lot of fat in this dish, but I can’t tell you how many calories or fat since I don’t know.


GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA           Ingredients:


Melt butter in a large sauce pan, then add pecans and toast until lightly browned. Place the pecans in a bowl and set aside.  Add 3 tbs of olive oil to the pan and when it is warmed, add the squash and the garlic cloves.  Saute until al dente.  If you like if soft, go for soft.  Ours was a little softer, but still really delicious.Remove pan from heat when it is ready.  At the same time heat 2 tsp oil in pan, then place turkey sausage and onions and brown.  On one more burner, place a pot of water to boil for the pasta.  When the sausage is almost ready, dump the pasta into the pot.  Drain the sausage and the onions, slice the turkey sausage so that it’s about the same size as the squash.  Drain pasta and dump everything into the pot and stir.  In the pan that had the squash, add a little butter and turn the heat on low, then add 1/4 cup white wine and simmer.  Pour into the pot with everything else, add in the parmesan and fold everything together.


You can probably substitute the pasta for another type, this is one I bought because it was interesting looking and it worked out well for this meal.