Baked Penne with Pink Sauce

Pasta is one food that finds appreciation in every household, and also a staple that can adapt itself to numerous amount of creativity, to suit the occasion, flavor and the ingredients in the pantry! For our family, there can never be enough of pasta recipes, and though I love experimenting in the kitchen, they don't always gel well with my 3-year old. So sometimes, sticking to favorites is the only way to go, and luckily for me, there are a few favorites that stick with all of us - like this incredibly simple but delicious-looking Baked Penne with 3 kinds of cheese and a pink tomato sauce!

3-Cheese Baked Penne with Pink Sauce
Adapted from Fine Cooking; serves 4

2 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
1 lb. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 medium)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried red chili flakes, more to taste
1 lb. dried penne rigate pasta
4 oz. shredded Fontina
4 oz. freshly grated Pamigiano-Reggiano
4 oz. shredded Mozzarella
4 tbsp store-bought alfredo sauce

Method Drain and discard 1 cup of the juice from one of the cans of tomatoes. Put the tomatoes and the remaining juices in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Set aside.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Put a large pot with 6 quarts water and 2 Tbs. kosher salt on to boil. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, about 1 minute, add the onions and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almost cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, push the onions to the side. If the pan is dry, add 1 Tbs. olive oil, and then the garlic, and cook until it just starts to sizzle and becomes fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the puréed tomatoes plus 1 tsp. kosher salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the sauce thickens slightly. As it starts to thicken, add 4 tbsp of alfredo sauce and remove from heat, giving it all a quick stir.

Add the rosemary and chili flakes and cook until they’re heated through and their flavors have melded, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until it’s just tender to the tooth, about 10 minutes. (Cook the pasta a little less than you normally might, because it will cook more in the oven later.) Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.

Add half each of the Fontina, Pamigiano-Reggiano, and Mozzarella to the pasta mixture and toss well. Transfer to the baking dish and spread evenly. Top the pasta with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

You can't go wrong with a baked pasta recipe. This one is very simple, but you can kick it up a notch by adding a bunch of your favorite veggies like peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, celery, squash or any seasonal favorites that add health, flavor and color to an already mouth-watering recipe. Feel free to improvise for a busy weeknight, or jazz it up for a comfy family-style Italian dinner!

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