This Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce is the definition of comfort food.
It’s warm, rich, and decadent.
Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce
I use a mix of fresh and canned tomatoes in the sauce. The fresh tomatoes up the flavor. But using canned tomatoes keeps this dish cost-effective.
Make no mistake about it, this baked pasta is cheesy. But the homemade tomato sauce keeps this dish from feeling too heavy.
There are three types of cheese in this baked pasta: mozzarella, cheddar, and Parmesan.
Be sure to use freshly grated cheese. It only takes a few minutes to grate the cheese yourself, but it makes a world of difference in flavor and texture.
Pre-grated cheese is full of additives and preservatives, including potato starch, cellulose, and natamycin. These additives keep the cheese shreds from clumping and getting moldy in the bag, but they also keep the cheese from melting the way freshly grated does.
Never heard of natamycin?
Here’s a definition you won’t forget. (I sure can’t.) Natamycin is a preservative that:
“naturally occurs in soil as a result of bacterial fermentation.”
Natamycin is also used to treat fungal eye infections.
Definitely something I don’t want in my cheese.
Make Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce!
Make my Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce the next time you’re craving a decadent pasta dish at home.
I’m a snob when it comes to Parmesan.
Be sure to buy a block of Parmigiano Reggiano. If the package doesn’t say “reggiano,” or says anything other than “reggiano,” it’s not real Parmesan. Parmigiano reggiano is known as “the king of cheese” for a reason. The flavor and texture can’t be beat. Skip on other alternatives, including grana padano, and get the real thing.
Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 small onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 28 oz crushed or small diced tomatoes
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- dash ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- 3 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1 pound pasta
- 6 oz mozzarella cheese
- ¾ cup cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese
Cook the onion and garlic
- Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large skillet. Turn the heat to medium high. Allow the pan to heat up for 30 seconds, then add the onion, garlic, and ½ tsp salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 6 minutes, until the pan starts to get dry and the onion begins to brown.
- Now add ¼ cup water to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. The water will reduce by half.
- Now turn the heat down to low, and cook the onion for an additional 2 minutes.
Add the fresh tomato
- Next, add the fresh tomatoes, ½ tsp salt, and the last Tbsp olive oil. Turn the heat up to medium, and cook for 7 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down a bit and released their juices.
Add the canned tomatoes
- Now add the canned tomatoes and their juices, the last ½ tsp salt, the brown sugar, Italian seasoning, and the parsley.
- Over medium low, bring the mixture to a simmer. This will take about 6 minutes.
- Once simmering, allow the tomato mixture to simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook the pasta
- While your tomato sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package instructions, but subtract 2-3 minutes from the cook time. We want the pasta to be slightly undercooked. It will finish cooking in the oven.
- Now is also a good time to toss together the mozzarella and cheddar. We want the cheddar to be evenly distributed throughout the mozzarella.
Combine the pasta and sauce
- Once the pasta finishes cooking, drain it, and put in back in the pot you cooked it in.
- Now add the tomato sauce to the pot with the pasta, and mix it all together until the sauce evenly coasts all the pasta.
Get ready to bake
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Oil a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Spread half of the pasta/tomato sauce mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.
- Now sprinkle half of the mozzarella/cheddar mixture on top, followed by half of the Parmesan.
- Spread the rest of the pasta/tomato sauce mixture over the cheese. Last, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella/cheddar mixture on top, followed by the remaining Parmesan.
Bake the pasta
- Bake the pasta, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees, until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
- Serve and enjoy!