Cooking at Home: Zucchini Pomodoro Penne Bake with Mozzarella and Herbed Ricotta

with Chef Robert Larios
Photography by Patricia M. Larios

Any day is a great day for cheesy baked carbs. At least I think so. And today is as good as any other day to have some. Think about the ingredients: a hearty blend of marinara sauce, penne pasta, zucchini, seasoned ricotta, topped with melted layers of mozzarella cheese.

¡Buen provecho!



Zucchini Pomodoro Penne Bake
with Mozzarella and Herbed Ricotta

Yields2 Servings

 1 zucchini
 1 Roma tomato
 1 yellow onion
 6 oz penne pasta
 14 oz marinara sauce
 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
 1 cup ricotta cheese
 ½ cup mozzarella cheese
 1 tsp chili flakes
 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
 1 tsp sugar
 1 tbsp butter
 Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (to taste)

1

Step 1
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Wash and dry all produce. Halve, peel and dice half the onion. Finely dice tomato and trim zucchini, then grate on the largest holes of a box grater.

2

Step 2
Once water is boiling, add penne to pot. Cook until almost al dente, 8 minutes. Drain penne. Keep empty pot handy for step 5. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, tomato and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4-6 minutes. Stir in marinara, zucchini, ½ tsp Italian seasoning, ¼ cup water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and a big pinch of salt. (You’ll use more Italian seasoning in the next step.) Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Turn off heat.

3

Step 3
While sauce simmers, in a medium bowl, combine ½ cup ricotta, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4

Step 4
Add drained penne, sauce, and 1 tablespoon butter to pot used for pasta. Season with salt and pepper; stir to combine thoroughly. Spread out half the pasta mixture in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Using a tablespoon, dollop pasta mixture with herbed ricotta. Top with remaining pasta mixture, then sprinkle with mozzarella.

5

Step 5
Cover baking dish with foil, and coat inside of foil with nonstick spray first to prevent sticking. Bake pasta on top rack for 10 minutes, then remove from oven; discard foil. Heat broiler to high. Broil until cheese is lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Let cool slightly; top with chili flakes if desired. Divide between plates and serve.

6

Enjoy!

Ingredients

 1 zucchini
 1 Roma tomato
 1 yellow onion
 6 oz penne pasta
 14 oz marinara sauce
 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
 1 cup ricotta cheese
 ½ cup mozzarella cheese
 1 tsp chili flakes
 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
 1 tsp sugar
 1 tbsp butter
 Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (to taste)

Directions

1

Step 1
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Wash and dry all produce. Halve, peel and dice half the onion. Finely dice tomato and trim zucchini, then grate on the largest holes of a box grater.

2

Step 2
Once water is boiling, add penne to pot. Cook until almost al dente, 8 minutes. Drain penne. Keep empty pot handy for step 5. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, tomato and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4-6 minutes. Stir in marinara, zucchini, ½ tsp Italian seasoning, ¼ cup water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and a big pinch of salt. (You’ll use more Italian seasoning in the next step.) Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Turn off heat.

3

Step 3
While sauce simmers, in a medium bowl, combine ½ cup ricotta, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4

Step 4
Add drained penne, sauce, and 1 tablespoon butter to pot used for pasta. Season with salt and pepper; stir to combine thoroughly. Spread out half the pasta mixture in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Using a tablespoon, dollop pasta mixture with herbed ricotta. Top with remaining pasta mixture, then sprinkle with mozzarella.

5

Step 5
Cover baking dish with foil, and coat inside of foil with nonstick spray first to prevent sticking. Bake pasta on top rack for 10 minutes, then remove from oven; discard foil. Heat broiler to high. Broil until cheese is lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Let cool slightly; top with chili flakes if desired. Divide between plates and serve.

6

Enjoy!

Zucchini Pomodoro Penne Bake with Mozzarella and Herbed Ricotta

Food Lover’s Dictionary

Pomodoro [poh-moh-DAW-roh]: Literally translating to “golden apple,” pomodoro is Italian for “tomato” (the first tomatoes in Italy were a yellowish color). Dishes described as “al pomodoro” are served with a tomato sauce.

Bibliography: Copyright Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. 2009, adapted from The New Food Lover’s Companion, 2007, by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst.

Recipe: https://www.hellofresh.com/recipes/zucchini-pomodoro-penne-bake-60196da36bd03372b904789d?isMegaAddonsEnabled=true
(accessed March 31, 2021)


Cooking Tidbit: You may substitute brown sugar instead of regular white sugar, or you may do without the sugar altogether. Also, you may use just extra virgin olive oil if not using butter. Generously add some Parmesan cheese soon after removing the penne bake from oven.



Food Quote: “If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?

– Martin Scorsese, film director

 

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