Easy potluck pasta bake

Today was my first day of physical therapy after my knee surgery, and man was it harder than I thought it would be! I knew that working on getting my bend back would be hard, but I didn’t think trying to straighten my leg all the way would be as painful as it was. I spent over two weeks in this lovely thing…

…so my knee couldn’t bend, but it wasn’t totally straight either. So it’s kind of in this weird limbo spot where I can’t straighten it or bend it all the way! It’s a little sore since I worked the muscles in that leg more today than I have in a month, but I’m just glad that it’s slowly on the mend. I can handle some pain now if it will get me back to doing yoga! And I can’t wait to try yoga for the first time without having the knee pain that the tumor was causing. I’m hoping within the month I’ll be able to go!

Anyway, I wanted to post the recipe for the pasta bake that I mentioned yesterday. It’s really easy and completely customizable to whatever you have on hand or want to throw in it!

Potluck Pasta Bake
Adapted from Italian Food Forever 

Start by cooking your choice of short pasta. I went with just over a half box of whole grain rotini.

Then, choose what you want to put in the casserole. We used the 1 1/2 cups of diced ham suggested in the recipe. For veggies, we had a bag of frozen broccoli and a bag of frozen chopped spinach that were both almost empty, so we thawed those…

…and my sous chef chopped everything up!

While he was chopping, I sauteed 1/2 cup of onions and 2 garlic cloves in 3 Tbs of butter. Then I whisked in 3 Tbs flour and 3 cups of 1% milk until the mixture was smooth. Next, add your choice of cheese. We chose 8 oz. of shredded cheddar. Add salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. of oregano. Put the pasta back in the pot and all your chopped components.

So colorful!

Pour cheese sauce into pot and mix everything together. Transfer to a baking dish and top with  1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I used panko) and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese. Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Then remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nice and brown and crispy.

We love brown crunchy edges in this house!

This was a great dish – and I think it was even better reheated the next day! I always think that casserole type things, including baked mac and cheese, are better reheated – why is that?!?!

Things I will change next time I make this:
– Add more veggies.
– Use either a combo of different cheeses or try something other than cheddar. The cheddar was great, just not super flavorful. I think maybe some gruyere or fontina would’ve been awesome in this.
– Use less breadcrumbs. I followed the amount in the recipe, but it didn’t evenly brown on top because I think I piled the crumbs too high in some spots.
– more garlic! Because the more garlic the better. 🙂

Overall, very easy, was able to use things we had on hand, and totally customizable!

After eating this for dinner the other night, I promptly pulled this out of the freezer.

Yep. That’s leftover cookie dough from these bad boys. The coconut lime were the boyfriend’s favorite so I made a mini batch for us. They were just as good the second time around! You’d think I’d be trying to lay off the sugar after the holidays. But no. I don’t believe in deprivation. If I want sugar and don’t have it, I get grumpy. 🙂

Do you make casserole-type dishes often? Do you have a favorite or do you just throw in what you have in the kitchen? 

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5 Comments

Filed under About Me, Food

5 responses to “Easy potluck pasta bake

  1. lida

    Our fave recipe (make it every Christmas Eve) is a casserole of all things. Lots of veg (carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushroom, tomatoes, tomato paste) with red wine and hammager. The sauce cooks for hours but you need the break after all the mincing and chopping. So you make that whenever you have time (day before, A.M., other) refrigerate and eventually reheat, add spinach, shells, top with tons of cheese and bake. Deelishioso! I have witnesses. Other than that — never! Need to be more creative. It’s a one dish dinner so — should explore the possibilities.

  2. Hi! Just found your blog via Iowa Girl Eats. I can totally relate to your being immobile and not being able to cook situation. I broke my leg/ankle in August last year and my hubby had to cook all my meals for me! I started physical therapy in late October and have made vast improvements in just two months, so it will get easier! I was still using a walker when I started (I HATED crutches too) and now I’m back to doing some hiking and my limp is almost completely gone. Hang in there!

    p.s. I have a shoe obsession too! It’s hard being a shoe obsessed girl who is recovering from surgery! I’m still in flats. Getting back to heels is my next big goal. 🙂

    • Tee

      Aw, thanks so much! I just checked out your blog and we have so much in common!! Just added you to my google reader list 🙂

  3. Good luck with the rehab. Love inventive meals with leftovers!

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