We didn't pick anything special because we're going to celebrate Valentine's Day on Friday. We decided on this recipe from the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Cooking Light. It's very similar to a baked ziti, but has a creamier, smokier flavor. We liked it but didn't find it particularly outstanding, though we did discover that the Smoked Dutch Cheese from Trader Joe's is freaking amazing! :) I would save this recipe just in case we decide we want it again sometime, but we probably won't repeat it.
Smoked Cheese Pasta Bake
This dish owes its creaminess to a layer of tangy sour cream. Make it on a Sunday afternoon, and enjoy leftovers for another meal during the week. Or you can assemble the casserole, refrigerate overnight, and bake shortly before serving.
1 pound uncooked penne (tube-shaped pasta)
1 (26-ounce) jar fat-free marinara sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked farmer or mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
Heat marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and spinach, stirring until blended; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in cooked pasta.
Spoon half of pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine sour cream, smoked cheese, and basil; spread over pasta mixture in dish. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture over sour cream mixture; sprinkle evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 8 servings
(Note: I think it makes more than 8 servings, because we halved the recipe and still have a ton left over!)