That title is a mouthful and that’s exactly what you will have once you prepare this Garlic Butter Tomato and Pesto Baked Pasta in your home! Perfectly cooked pasta is flavoured with both seasoned tomatoes and basil pesto and baked with garlic butter and bocconcini until melted and gooey. This just might be my new favourite way to make pasta!
Yes, Dear Reader, the title of this recipe is quite long and to some of you, might be quite the tongue twister! But, whenever I think about a name for a recipe, I never pay attention to what food blogging professionals suggest, which is to focus on keywords or common search phrases. Nope – not me! I like to name it what it is so that from the title you should be able to guess how it will taste, if you will like it, and if you want to make it! So, Garlic Butter Tomato and Pesto Baked Pasta is what it is!
Trust me, this just might become your new favourite pasta too! It really is quite delicious. In fact, the whole pan that you see in the photos was finished by John.e and myself in one sitting. Just last week, it was a gorgeous, sunny day outside, and as soon as I had captured the photos, I placed the baking dish onto a wooden serving tray and took it outside. With a fork each, we ate lunch on our back deck. We didn’t even use plates! I set the dish between the two of us and we dug in! It was wonderful!
When I was first toying with the idea of making a baked pasta with mini bocconcini balls melted on top, the furthest thing from my mind was the addition of basil pesto. It’s one of those things that I like, but only in very small quantities. So, when I had the idea to just spoon little dollops of the pesto over the top of the pasta, I just went with it! If it was too much, I could have eaten around it, but I’m glad I gave it a go, because it turns out it was really delicious! Let me tell you how to make it!
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INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Pasta – Any short-shaped pasta will do. I used penne, but you could use longer pasta too. Spaghetti would be perfect!
- Salt & Pepper – Seasonings are needed. I love lots of black pepper in this recipe. There’s a lot of salt too, but the salt brings out the flavour of the tomatoes.
- Canned Diced Tomatoes – You will need roughly two cups, including the juice. Store-bought is fine, but I used my homemade canned tomatoes.
- Italian Seasoning – There are many differing Italian seasoning blends out there. Use the one you’re most comfortable with. I have a great homemade Italian Seasoning Blend if you want to make up your own.
- Olive Oil – Use good tasting olive oil. I tend to light a light olive oil, but you use what tastes good to you.
- Basil Pesto – You can make your own pesto at home or you can you use the store-bought type. I mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of basil pesto, but whenever I buy it, this is the only brand I get.
- Garlic Butter – I make this myself, because it’s super easy, but you can also use store-bought.
- Bocconcini – Drain the bocconcini well and pat them dry with clean paper towels. I’m using mini bocconcini, but you can use the larger size if that’s all you can find. Leave them whole or quarter them.
- Basil – Fresh basil is a must. Do not be tempted to use dried basil from your spice rack.
HOW TO MAKE GARLIC BUTTER AND TOMATO PESTO BAKED PASTA
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Next, add the olive oil to a large casserole dish. Use a pastry brush to brush the bottom and sides of the dish with the olive oil. Set that aside. Next, add the cooked, drained, and cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add the canned diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and ground black pepper. Toss well to mix thoroughly and transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
Bake in the preheated oven for fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and use a teaspoon to make little dollops of basil pesto over the top of the pasta. Follow that by doing the same thing with the garlic butter – just place little portions of the butter randomly over the top. Finally, distribute the bocconcini balls over the pasta. Return the casserole dish to the oven and bake for another fifteen minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey.
If you want browned cheese, place the dish under the broiler for about two minutes, but watch very carefully so that it doesn’t burn! Finally, remove the pasta from the oven and plate. Garnish with fresh basil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and red chili flakes, if so desired.
WHAT IS BOCCONCINI
Bocconcini are small mozzarella cheese balls that are usually the size of an egg. In the case of this recipe, I’m using mini bocconcini, which are similar to a grape or a cherry tomato. Like other mozzarellas, they are semi-soft, white, and rindless. It is a mild cheese that originated in Naples and were once made only from the milk of water buffalo. Nowadays, they are usually made from a combination of water buffalo and cow’s milk. Bocconcini are packaged in whey or water, have a spongy texture, and absorb flavors.
The cheese is made in the pasta filata manner by dipping curds into hot whey, and kneading, pulling, and stretching. Bocconcini made solely of water buffalo’s milk is still produced in the provinces of Naples, Caserta, and Salerno. Alternatively, the type made with whole cow’s milk are also manufactured, in which the higher liquid content, in comparison to standard mozzarella, lends them the soft consistency. Bocconcini can be bought at most supermarkets. They are often used in caprese salad, or served with pasta.
COOKING PERFECT PASTA EVERY TIME!
Someone once told me that I prepare pasta like an old Italian grandma. That has stuck we me for so many years. You see, Dear Reader, I’m far from perfect, but cooking pasta is one thing I can certainly do perfectly. I don’t care what the back of the pasta package says, cook your pasta according to taste and texture. Ignore everything else. Here are my 4 steadfast rules. If you follow these, you’ll have the best tasting Garlic Butter Tomato and Pesto Baked Pasta possible!
Rule #1: Say no to oil!
Do you add oil to your pasta water before adding the pasta? Stop that right now! I don’t know who’s responsible for that, but I have seen some TV chefs do it! If you add oil to your pasta water, do you know what happens when you put the sauce on it? The sauce won’t stick as well as it should. It will slide off, because the oil prevents it from sticking.
Rule #2: Add extra salt!
Salt the water. I used to be so afraid of salting pasta water, because I thought it would be too salty to eat. Salting the water, before you add the pasta, is the only chance you get to season that pasta. Let the water come to full boil before adding your salt. The water should taste like the ocean.
Don’t dump the salt in; stir it in. Preventing the salt from settling at the bottom of your pot will keep your pot looking shiny and new. If you have pots with what looks like a tarnished or unpolished interior bottom, it’s because salt sat at the bottom of your pot.
Rule #3: Get that pasta moving about immediately!
Lastly, stir the pasta for a good minute when you first add it to the water. This helps to wash off some of the starch and prevents the pasta from sticking to the pot and to itself. I always pull out a piece of pasta 4 minutes before the package says it will be ready. Taste it. Chew it. It shouldn’t be completely soft. If it has a bit of bite left in the center, get it out of the water and drain it immediately. You can thank me later!
Rule #4: Do not rinse!
So many of us are tempting to rinse pasta under running water after it’s been drained. I think it comes from the notion that it gets rid of starch. Well, it does in a way. But, when pasta begins to cool off and dry a bit, it comes a little sticky. That stickiness soaks up pasta sauce, so don’t flush it out!
A quick drain is all you need. Get the pasta into a bowl or onto a plate. Get the sauce on it and serve it up. If you are one of those people that rinses pasta so that it doesn’t get sticky, hold off on cooking it until your sauce is ready. That way, it won’t have time to get stick before you plate it up!
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TRY MAKING YOUR OWN GARLIC BUTTER!
I have been meaning to get this recipe posting for a long time now and I never seem to get around to it. No time like the present, right!? Sometimes – only sometimes! – I will buy prepared garlic butter from the grocery store. But, I only ever buy it at one store, because it is the absolute best tasting garlic butter I have ever had. I have tried to make a copycat version of it, and I can get it quite close, but not right on the mark.
The garlic butter I’m referring to comes from a grocery store chain in Canada called Foodland. Foodland is a Canadian chain of grocery stores founded in 1985. Its stores are located mostly in rural areas of Atlantic Canada and Ontario. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had to drive to a little town called Verona to pick up the trailer for John.e’s tractor and that beautiful little town had a Foodland! And, they had the garlic butter too!
Here’s how I make my almost copycat version of it: Start with placing a half cup of softened, salted butter into a bowl. You can add one or two cloves of freshly minced garlic, depending on how strong you like it. I use one clove of minced garlic and a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder. (That seems to make a huge difference in getting the flavour to match Foodland’s version!)
Next, add in a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper, a half teaspoon of oregano, basil, and parsley, and finally, a quarter cup of parmesan cheese. Mix that all together until well incorporated into the butter. Use as much or as little of it as you want on toasted or grilled bread. You can store it in the fridge for a month. For this Garlic Butter Tomato and Pesto Baked Pasta recipe, you will need a quarter cup of garlic butter.
Okay, this is getting a little long-winded, so I’ll go ahead and tie it all up now. When all is said and done, this is one of the best pasta and pesto combinations you’ll ever eat. It really is that good! If you have any leftovers, don’t worry. From the time you toss all of the ingredients together, you can refrigerate this dish for up to three days. Yes, it will certainly last that long in your fridge and still look and taste fresh! To reheat, toss in a warm skillet until warmed though, or simply pop it in the microwave for a minute or two! Enjoy!
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Garlic Butter Tomato and Pesto Baked Pasta
- 450 grams penne pasta, cooked, drained well, and cooled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups canned diced tomatoes with juice https://www.lordbyronskitchen.com/canned-diced-tomatoes/
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning https://www.lordbyronskitchen.com/italian-seasoning-blend/
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup basil pesto https://www.lordbyronskitchen.com/peppery-double-parmesan-basil-pesto/
- 1/2 cup garlic butter
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 200 grams mini bocconcini, drained
- chopped parsley for garnish, optional
- parmesan for garnish, optional
- dried red chili flakes, optional
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Next, add the olive oil to a large casserole dish. Use a pastry brush to brush the bottom and sides of the dish with the olive oil. Set that aside.
- Next, add the cooked, drained, and cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add the canned diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and ground black pepper. Toss well to mix thoroughly and transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
- Bake in the preheated oven for fifteen minutes.
- Remove from the oven and use a teaspoon to make little dollops of basil pesto over the top of the pasta. Follow that by doing the same thing with the garlic butter – just place little portions of the butter randomly over the top. Finally, distribute the bocconcini balls over the pasta.
- Return the casserole dish to the oven and bake for another fifteen minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey.
- If you want browned cheese, place the dish under the broiler for about two minutes, but watch very carefully so that it doesn’t burn!
- Finally, remove the pasta from the oven and plate. Garnish with fresh basil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and red chili flakes, if so desired.
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