Baked Penne

Baked Penne

America’s Test Kitchens on PBS gets full credit for this recipe.  It’s ingenious. They took a process of several steps and put it all into one cast iron pan for a baked pasta dish that rules.  I adjusted this recipe to feed about 2-3 people, but otherwise, they deserve all the credit. They use ziti, and the classic dish calls for this type of pasta, but for me, penne has so much more character and texture, and absorbs the sauce a lot better.  This really does need a cast iron skillet. I am sure you could use a regular oven safe stainless steel pan, but I never tried it like that.  This works just as well with canned plum tomatoes you can chop on your own. Let me know if it works for you.


  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (or 1 cup crushed tomatoes, OR this really works well with canned plum tomatoes chopped by hand)
  • olive oil, salt & pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces penne rigate or ziti (half a pound or half a box/package in most cases)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups of spring water (more depending)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces grated whole milk mozzarella OR enough slices of deli provolone to cover the entire top of the dish
  • 3 cloves grated garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil (optional if in season)
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 teaspoon Better than Broth vegetable or garlic broth


  • Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat
  • Toss the cherry tomatoes in olive oil and salt, add to a hot cast iron skillet. Continue to toss until they are charred on all sides (about 10 minutes)
  • Once they are charred and soft, use a potato masher to mash them up into broken down.
  • Add in a tablespoon of tomato paste, pinch of red pepper flakes, and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in 3 cups of water, plus the pasta. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid
  • After 15 minutes check the pasta to see if it is cooked by tasting a single piece.  It should be firm, but not raw, remember, it is going to cook more for a few more minutes on the stove, and in the oven.
  • Once done and nearly all the water is absorbed, add in the grated cheese slowly, and stir.
  • If using fresh chopped basil, add this in now.
  • While this looks good as it is, and you can even eat it now, it is time to add the shredded mozzarella over the top. Do not stir or mix it in.
  • Put under the broiler on high for several minutes, until the cheese is done and turns slightly brown – DO NOT BURN. Keep an eye on it, it gets done fairly quickly.
  • Allow it to rest 5 minutes, and serve.
Author: raveniteclub