Today I am showing some love to Annie’s Eats again because I just can’t get enough! But, before I tell you how deeply delicious this pasta is, let me first tell you a little story. I discovered Annie’s Eats back in 2010 and have been seriously hooked ever since. In fact, Annie’s blog was the very first food blog I ever came across and it really just opened my eyes to a whole new world—one I absolutely loved and still love. Food, food, and more food?! Yes, please.
From there, I began clicking on the food blogs listed in Annie’s Blogroll on the sidebar of her site…and I literally became addicted. Each blog listed other food blogs, so I just kept clicking and clicking, which is how reading food blogs became my life. At the time, I didn’t know about Bloglovin’ or any other tools to keep track of the blogs I loved, so I went old school and created a word document that linked to every.single.blog that I couldn’t get enough of. It was a solid 3 pages long, and my one goal everyday was to click on every link and read all the new blog posts. Between food blogs and The Food Network, I was seriously in love.
After years of reading everyone else’s food blog, I took a leap and started my own (obviously!). So really, I owe a big thank you to Annie for shining a light on what I love most in life. FOOD! I’ve made countless recipes from Annie’s Eats and not one has ever let me down. So, when I saw her recipe for Cheesy Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce, I knew I’d be adding it to my next meal plan.
I grew up eating pasta for dinner most every night (true story!) and my life just wouldn’t be complete without it. Nowadays, I eat much less pasta than I used to, but it’s still one of my most favorite meals. Growing up, my family and I canned tomato sauce every summer—jars and jars of it to last all year long. But, since moving from home almost 8 years ago, I haven’t been able to enjoy my family’s homemade sauce quite as much, which is a bummer. For years now, I’ve been struggling to make good tomato sauce from store-bought canned tomatoes, but this recipe here changed all that.
Pasta, no matter the shape, is tasty and comforting, but toss it with delectable sauce and we have a grand slam. What I love most about this sauce is that it has so many layers of tomato flavor—whole peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, and roasted grape tomatoes. Does it get any better?! Well yes, in fact it does. Little cubes of fresh mozzarella take this pasta dish over the edge. Oh, how I loved getting a forkful of pasta with a hunk of melted cheese attached! Mmm!
Two more things to round out this pasta dish—a touch of red pepper flakes for a bit of warmth, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to make the sauce extra creamy. It’s pretty much a given that I doubled Annie’s original recipe, and other than that, I only made two small changes. I quartered the amount of red pepper flakes, because I’ve made enough Annie’s Eats recipes to know that she really loves spicy food. And, I used the Greek yogurt, instead of heavy cream…because I only had half & half on-hand and we needed that for our morning coffee. No worries though, the yogurt really worked perfectly.
If you’re looking for a new family favorite pasta dish, I promise you this is it! Perfectly cooked pasta, lots of creamy tomato sauce with deep, deep tomato flavor, and so many melted spots of cheesy goodness. And, just because, I went ahead and added a whole heap of shredded mozzarella on top before popping the pasta in the oven to bake. Life’s too short not to!
Cheesy Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Yields about 8 servings (Shh! Don’t tell anyone that we only got 5 servings out of this.)
For the roasted tomatoes
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
For the pasta and sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 lb. uncooked penne pasta
- 2 (28 oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion—finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic—minced
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 8oz. fresh mozzarella—cubed
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- optional: freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping
For the roasted tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
Cut each tomato in half lengthwise. To a small bowl, add the halved tomatoes, EVOO, and salt. Gently toss to combine and place the tomatoes on the baking sheet cut-side down. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully flip the tomatoes over and bake for 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
For the pasta and sauce
Spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside until ready to use.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and pasta to the boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. Drain pasta in a colander and return the pasta to the pot.
Add both cans of tomatoes to a blender and blend until mostly smooth. Set aside.
To a large skillet set over medium heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the onions and let cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 additional minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until slightly deeper in color.
Turn the heat to low for a few seconds (to avoid splattering when adding the tomatoes) and then add the blended tomatoes. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened. Add the yogurt and stir until completely incorporated.
Add the sauce to the pot with the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Add the roasted grape tomatoes and the cubes of mozzarella to the pot and stir again.
Carefully pour the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella evenly over the whole dish. Cover the dish with foil sprayed with non-stick spray (to prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese). Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5-10 more minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted.
Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Minimally adapted from Annie’s Eats