SPICY BAKED CAPRESE PASTA
An easy to make spicy baked caprese pasta that’s packed with lots of nutrition! Mini heirloom tomatoes gives this pasta a unique bistro flavor. Topped with parmesan and fresh mozzarella to please the pickiest eater!
Easy. Breezy. Capresie? That’s how I describe this spicy baked caprese pasta. I find it funny how some of my most favorite recipes are the ones that I never originally intended to put on the blog. Here I was trying to throw together dinner for the both of us and this caprese pasta was born. Naturally, we both loved it so much that I wanted to get this on here as soon as I could.
The tang of the tomatoes, the chewy pasta, the creaminess of fresh mozzarella cheese, the fresh sweetness of basil, plus garlic. I mean, this is the nutrition packed package. But… wait for it. I haven’t told you the best part. It takes just 30 minutes. Read it and weep. Er, um… happy weeping? Tears of joy? Yes?
Mmk, so here’s the thing.
A big dish of rigatoni rolled around in tomato sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, and fresh heirlooms, all topped with fresh, sweet basil pesto, and melty, gooey mozzarella – it’s definitely the best thing ever. And I’ve been eating it all week. Just try to stop me, I dare you. No but please dont. Basil. Cheese. Tomatoes. Pasta. Exactly in that order when you dive mouth first into this baked caprese pasta. It’s like a margherita pizza in the form of pasta. Is there anyone in the world that wouldn’t love that? Doubt it. I think I probably had you at cheese.
And although it may not look like it, it’s loaded with nutrition. We’ve got tomatoes in 3 different forms, only 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and protein from the fresh mozzarella. Now that’s a perfect, guilt-free meal. Vegetarian, healthy, and loaded with cheese? This is so perfect for meatless Mondays.
Let’s talk tomatoes. You definitely don’t have to use the mini heirloom tomatoes. Regular cherry or grape tomatoes work great too. If you don’t have those either, just use what you’ve got on hand. Remove the seeds and dice up Romas or salad tomatoes. What ever you do make this caprese pasta. Don’t think. Just do it.
Shallots. I used shallots because they’re milder in flavor. I used 2 small shallots. If you don’t have any just use a small onion in it’s place.
Mozzarella. You can go with fresh, whole milk mozzarella or the shredded kind. I did a combination of both. I just sliced the fresh mozzarella into halves and tossed them in between layers of rigatoni and sauce. And used the shredded stuff on the top. You can use all shredded mozzarella cheese if you don’t have fresh mozzarella on hand.
You can’t go wrong with what you toss in the baked caprese pasta. Diced eggplant, zucchini, or even baby spinach would add ‘meatiness’ to this dish and turn it into a full veggie packed meal. You could even serve this pasta alongside a grilled chicken breast or crispy baked chicken tenders. The possibilities are truly endless!
Run. Don’t walk. You need to make this tonight!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 shallots (or 1 small onion), finely minced
- 1 tablespoon (3 cloves) garlic, minced
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 8 - 10 oz mini heirloom tomatoes, diced romas, or grape or cherry tomatoes (see note*)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 - 8 large basil leaves, fresh
- 2 tablespoons pesto (fresh or store bought)
- 12 oz rigatoni pasta (cooked to al dente*)
- 2 cups spaghetti sauce (your favorite kind)
- 1/4 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
- 6 oz whole milk fresh mozzarella cheese or shredded mozzarella (see note*)
- Place a rack near the center in the oven. Preheat the oven on the broil setting.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Sauté shallots and garlic over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes and half of the fresh tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 8 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Add half of the basil and pesto and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add to the pasta along with the remaining fresh tomatoes. Pour in tomato sauce and stir to combine (you can add more sauce if you like your pasta to be saucy). Add the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Pour half of the pasta mixture into a baking dish, spread half of the mozzarella over the pasta. Top with the remaining pasta mixture and the remaining mozzarella cheese. I placed fresh mozzarella on the inside and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Place under broiler for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve warm.
- For the pasta: It's important to boil the rigatoni pasta to al-dente. Over boiling will cause the pasta to become over-cooked when baked in the oven.
- For the tomatoes: If you don't have mini heirloom toamtoes, use cherry or grape tomatoes instead. Or dice up Roma or salad tomatoes with the seeds removed, they work great too!
- For the cheese: I used 4 oz of fresh mozzarella cheese along with 2 oz of shredded mozzarella, you can use one or the other or a combination of both.
- This baked caprese pasta is very versitile, so use what you've got on hand!