Baked Almond Crusted Penne Pasta

Direct quote from my husband, “Honey, this is the best thing you have ever made.” Wow. I was speechless. He always tells me what he thinks about my meals. He is always positive, but will tell me what he thinks I can do to make it better (He had nothing to say about how to make it better, which is a testament to how absolutely delicious this meal is!). I appreciate his honesty! It makes this blog much better and it makes me a better cook!

I used to absolutely despise cooking. Now that I have been vegetarian since January, I have loved getting to know myself as a “chef” and a person. I love researching new recipes and tweeking them to meet our likes and needs. Sometimes I will even have a stroke of genius and just “go with it”. This is where this recipe was born.

I was in the kitchen trying to think of dinner for tonight, when I got a sudden IMG_0530craving for pasta. Then I got all nostalgic and remember how my late grandma would make such a delicious baked spaghetti every time our church had a pot-luck lunch. And there it was. I decided to make baked penne. The only thing I knew i wanted to do was boil the pasta. The rest came to me as i saw what we had in the fridge. Please feel free to tweek to your liking. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

– 1 box of whole wheat penne pasta

– 1 cup of diced onion

– 1 garlic clove, minced

– 2-3 cups of Prego pasta sauce

– 1 tbsp of basil pesto

– fresh mozzarella cheese

– kale

– 1 cup of grape tomatoes cut into fourths

– 1/2 cup of Italian dressing

– 3 tbsp of vegetable stock

– 1 cup of whole almonds (if you can find them already finely chopped, use them instead)

– salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Boil the penne pasta in a large skillet over high heat. Add salt. Stir occasionally.

2. While the pasta is cooking, dice the onion and saute over medium heat using 3 tbsp of vegetable stock for about 7-8 minutes. mince the garlic and add to the skillet. Saute the onion and garlic together for about 3 more minutes.

3. Spray the casserole dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with mozzarella cheese until you can barely see the bottom. Drizzle the Italian dressing over the cheese.

4. Once the pasta is finished cooking, pour in a strainer. After all the water has drained from the pasta, pour the pasta over the cheese in the casserole dish.

5. Next, put the sauteed onion and garlic over the pasta. Pour the Prego pasta sauce over the pasta.

6. Dice the grape tomatoes into fourths. Mix with basil pesto. Pour over the pasta.

7. Chop the kale into small pieces. Spread over the pasta. Add mozzarella cheese to cover the top.

8. In a food processor, or coffee grinder, chop the almonds into small bits. Spread over the cheese. (If you don’t have a food processor or coffee grinder, it might be best to purchase chopped almonds.)

9. Cover the casserole with tinfoil and place in over at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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