Thursday, February 3, 2011

CEIMB: Four Cheese Baked Penne (Or Three Cheese Baked Rigatoni!)

This week's much-anticipated Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was Four Cheese Baked Penne, chosen by Lindsey of 71 Cookbooks. I have been waiting for this one. We are big baked pasta eaters here at my house. It's basically my go-to meal, one of the first things I learned how to cook, and one of my childhood comfort foods. I figured I was going to be in for a big treat.

Of course, it seems I never follow one of Ellie's recipes exactly, and this one was no different. Instead of using all four of the cheeses Ellie did, I omitted the cottage cheese and made up the difference by using extra ricotta. I had rigatoni on hand, not penne, so that was the pasta I used. Otherwise, I did follow the recipe just as written. I also decided to make the salad that accompanies the pasta in her cookbook, but I did not use romaine hearts as she indicates. Instead, I made a spinach salad with all the other ingredients in her recipe.

I have to be honest. I wasn't totally blown away by this meal. I did really enjoy it, but the pasta dish definitely needed a little something extra. I think for me, I like the baked pasta to be saucier, as in tomato sauce. When I usually make it, it has about twice the tomato sauce and I normally use enough crushed red pepper flakes to give it a bit of a kick. However, I wanted to follow Ellie's method because 1) I'm always up for trying something her way, because her way is probably healthier, and 2) if I had followed my instincts and added more sauce, it would have ended up being my version of baked pasta and not Ellie's anymore! Oh well. I'm glad I know for sure now that I like it the tried and true way.

As for the spinach salad, it was tasty. I felt like the dressing, which was simply lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, and oregano, was a bit too acidic. I made the same salad the next evening with the pasta leftovers, except with white balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice. What a difference that made! We loved the balsamic version, probably because it was slightly sweeter and far less tart. I really did love how the salty kalamata olives offset the sweet red onions so nicely. It was a pleasant surprise.

Thanks to Lindsey for choosing this dish! If you'd like the full recipe, it's on Food Network's site, here. The blogroll for the CEIMB can be found here.


  1. I would have added a touch more tomato to it as well. But we really enjoyed it. It made WAY too much for two people. Would be a good dish for the Super Bowl parties :)

  2. For some reason I half expected the part you changed to be the part about leaving out the tomatoes completely. This was good...I only made a half recipe and it would easily feed four around here...huge amount and very filling. Love your photos of it.

  3. Thanks for trying it out! I agree, it wasn't amazing, but I feel like it's a good base recipe to work with. Thanks for joining me this week!

  4. I haven't made mine yet, so I'll definitely keep your advice in mind. Even though it needed a little something, yours sure looks yummy and cheesy!

  5. It shouldn't surprise you to know that I omitted the cottage cheese and also thought it needed more tomato sauce. It's like we're food twins lol

    I'm glad you are enjoying doing Meatless Mondays! I've bookmarked several of your recipes to try soon, but I'm still not sure about those kale chips :) I like kale, but the idea of it in a chip... hmm.. I'm just not sure.