This past weekend we took a few days off and headed to the mountains to celebrate our 34th anniversary. It was nice to slow down and just enjoy being together. The hotel took good care of us and provided a couple of nice suprises, like the dessert plate here. (Someone writes better in frosting than I do with a pen.) Thanks, Daddy-O, for lots of good years together.
The drive up the mountain was a challenge. Happily, the rest of the weekend was perfect. The first official day of fall was also our anniversary. I'm so glad that cooler weather is just around the corner. I'm pretty sure we chose this time of year to get married because it was between hay season and the soybean season. All these years later, there are no more soybeans. But I'm glad we chose a fall date all those years ago. It's just the nicest time of year.
The night before we left, I made a favorite pasta dish for our supper. I've posted this recipe before and I've made it many times. This time was maybe the best ever. Could be because for the first time I didn't use reduce-fat alfredo sauce! That was only because the store was out of it. I hate to admit how much better it was—creamy and rich. I'll likely still use the healthier sauce when I can find it, but it was interesting to observe the difference. I also changed the cooking directions this time, so the recipe below is written this "new" way.
I have used and abused this recipe so many times—less Alfredo sauce; reduced the tomato liquid or just barely warmed them up; made it with spinach and without spinach. I've used penne and bowties. I've used flavored diced tomatoes and fire-roasted diced tomatoes. I've used plain diced tomatoes and added some Italian seasoning. I've tried jarred Alfredo sauce and refrigerated sauce.
I've never used the smoked mozzarella that the original recipe called for. Our small town store does not sell it. However I've done it, it's always good. (So glad that half of this dish is in the freezer for another time.) Here is the most current version:
BAKED BOWTIES with TOMATOES AND MOZZERALLA
3 cups (9 oz.) uncooked bowtie pasta (or penne pasta)
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained (this time I used fire roasted)
2 cups Alfredo pasta sauce (I used refrigerated Buitoni sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 handfuls baby spinach
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with PAM. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat tomatoes to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in spinach just to wilt it.
Put Alfredo sauce into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 90-seconds to heat. Stir in shredded cheese. Heat another 30-seconds and stir until cheese melts. Mix in tomato-spinach mixture.
Put pasta in the baking dish and pour sauce over it. Stir gently to mix it all.
Bake uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until hot in center.
The original recipe calls for heating the Alfredo sauce on the stovetop, but I've always found that the sauce/cheese mixture was hard to wash out of the pan. The glass bowl in the microwave made clean up easier.