I was at our friend Nicole's house the other night having some beers on the porch and her roommate Amanda was cooking away in the kitchen. She was making baked rigatoni, and it smelled amazing! I realized that we had some heirloom tomatoes, and some dandelion greens, and thought; we are going to make a baked pasta too! Katie and I grabbed some ingredients and got down to work. Since we were going to make our own tomato sauce, and were pretty hungry, we used a short cut and blended the sauce early to decrease the cooking time.
3 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded, and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 bunch of dandelion greens, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp double concentrate tomato paste
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
12 oz ricotta cheese, divided
pinch of chili flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
1 lb whole wheat pasta shells, cooked to package instructions
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, sweat the onions until translucent in the olive oil, about 7-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and some salt and pepper, and continue cooking for 8-10 more minutes until tomatoes are softened. Add the dandelion greens, and allow to wilt for 2-3 minutes. With an immersion blender, thoroughly process the tomato, onion, greens and garlic mixture. Mix in the tomato paste, Italian seasoning, chili flakes, and any salt and pepper you wish to add, and simmer covered for 15 minutes. This is a good time to start cooking your pasta, and preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Now slowly incorporate half of the ricotta cheese into the tomato sauce. Spray a baking dish (at least 9"x9") with cooking spray and add strained pasta and sauce, and mix well. Spoon dollops of the remaining ricotta on top, then cover with slices of mozzarella. Cover and bake for 12 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5-6 minutes until the mozzarella is melted, and starts to color just slightly. Remove from oven, garnish with chopped parsley, and feast!