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Friday, December 1, 2023
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This baked pasta features Spanish flavours and a time-saving clean-up trick

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – I’m a sucker for a good baked pasta – crispy topping, bubbling sauce, maybe a little cheese (or a lot) – but I’ve never considered it a particularly streamlined affair.

You’ve got to boil and drain the pasta before tossing it with the other ingredients, and if you’re making a separate sauce, that’s at least three bowls, blenders and/or pots to clean.

As much as I appreciate recipes that require less clean-up, it wasn’t until I read Anna Jones’s new book that I made the connection between one-pot cooking and eco-consciousness. Even though Jones doesn’t directly draw that line, the book’s title, One Pot, Plan, Planet, does. And it makes sense: Fewer dishes means less water. But that also means more time to cook, which might mean more time to cook from scratch.

Jones includes a recipe for baked pasta that requires you to dirty exactly one pan – a casserole dish – and a small mixing bowl for the topping. The key is to put the pasta in the casserole dried and add enough liquid to cook it with the other ingredients, lasagna-style.

Those ingredients include touches that give this a Spanish vibe: smoked paprika, of course, plus jarred roasted red peppers, sliced olives, vinegar and a small amount of manchego cheese. With those and the three types of fennel in the mix – bulb, fronds and seeds – the bake ends up with a satisfyingly deep, piquant flavour.

You’ll love the comfort you get from this warming dish, and you’ll love getting back the time you otherwise would’ve spent cleaning up afterward.

Smoked Paprika Pasta Bake. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: one hour 30 minutes
Eight servings

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to three months.

– One large white onion, chopped
– One fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds for topping
– Three garlic cloves, chopped
– Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– One teaspoon fennel seeds
– One teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
– Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
– One pound dried penne or other short pasta shapes, such as fusilli
– One can diced tomatoes
– One small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
– Three roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and chopped
– Quarter cup pitted green olives, sliced
– One and a half tablespoons vinegar
– Two teaspoons smoked paprika
– Two and a half cups low-sodium vegetable broth, heated, plus more if needed
– Half cup breadcrumbs
– Quarter cup grated Manchego cheese (may substitute Parmesan cheese or vegan cheese)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a nine-by-13-inch baking dish, toss together the onion, fennel, garlic, oil, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are starting to soften but not yet browning.

Add to the baking dish the pasta, tomatoes, parsley, red peppers, olives, vinegar, and paprika. Stir to thoroughly combine, taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed. Pour the broth over the mixture, adding more if needed so the liquid barely covers the pasta. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and has absorbed the water.

While the pasta is baking, chop the wispiest parts of the fennel fronds until you have a third of a cup. In a small bowl, mix the fennel fronds with the breadcrumbs and cheese.

When the pasta is ready, remove the foil, scatter the breadcrumb mixture on top and bake, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden and crisp on top. Remove from the oven and let the dish rest for at least 10 minutes before serving, so the sauce thickens. Serve hot.

Calories: 314; Total Fat: 5g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 649mg; Carbohydrates: 55g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 10g


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