As some of you may know, I am not a huge salad fan. Probably too many salads with limp iceberg lettuce when growing up in the 70s. I am not averse to a good caesar salad but that is probably explained by the fact the dressing has anchovies and there is bacon. And how can you not like a dish that has the magical bacon in it. Ok so the anchovies and bacon are probably not in a caesar if you are a purist but I have never claimed to be one of those when it comes to food. The other salad I love is a good caprese salad. I adore tomatoes, there is not a lettuce in site and the tartness of the balsamic vinegar is pretty magical.
I am not feeling as inspired by other food blogs at the moment as they are full of salad with it being summer in the US. But I did see a recipe for a caprese pasta bake that I then couldn’t find again. So I have made up my own.
I am calling this the ugly duckling baked caprese pasta because it is all a bit sloppy and doesn’t serve up nicely, definitely one to make when cooking just for yourself. That is one of the joys of cooking for yourself – you don’t need to worry about other people’s preferences nor how beautiful the dish looks. And boy does it taste good.
It would probably be a tomato/cheese overload if it wasn’t for the tartness from the balsamic vinegar and the freshness of the basil. Those two additions cut through the sweetness of the tomato and the butteriness of the cheese to stop them overwhelming the dish. The pasta also helps tone everything down.
To make this I have used no boil lasagna sheets. You don’t need to boil these sheets before you add to the pasta, you just need to make sure that the sheets are smeared all over with the tomato mixture to soften them. If you can’t find any no boil lasagne sheets in your local store, then you can substitute other pasta, you will just need to cook it first until it is nearly done before add it to the mix. If you aren’t using lasagne sheets then I would pre-cook the pasta and then toss the tomatoes and tomato mix, balsamic vinegar, basil and pasta in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and then top with the bocconcini and parmesan.
Don’t be put off by the lengthy cooking instructions – they are just layering instructions.
If you use the no boil lasagna sheets (the packet should say if you need to boil first or not) then this is another great one pot dish for dinner. And once you have done the prep and layered the food then all you have to do is pop it in the oven and let it do its thing. Such a good dish to make if you have a hectic evening and need to get other stuff done. Preparation is only about 5 minutes – very quick and super easy. And it only has about 370 calories.
- Olive oil spray
- 200g of diced tinned tomatoes (half a 400g tin)
- 2 tsps of tomato paste
- 2 sheets of no boil lasagna (about 30 g)
- 60g of fresh mozzarella (or bocconcini), sliced
- 6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 24 basil leaves
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tbs of parmesan cheese, shredded
- salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 220C (425F)
- Mix the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste together in a bowl.
- Spray a small baking dish with olive oil spray (my dish is nearly the exact size of one of the lasagna sheets - about 18cm by 12 cm)
- Smear about 1/3 of the tomato mix over the bottom of the baking dish, covering the whole bottom
- Pop a layer of 8 basil leaves over the tomato
- Place one sheet of lasagna on top of the basil leaves
- Smear another 1/3 of the tomato mix over the lasagna sheet, making sure all of the sheet is covered.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Place a layer of mozzarella (30g - half the mozzarella) over the tomato mix.
- Place a layer of half the cherry tomatoes over the mozzarella.
- Drizzle 1/2 a tsp of balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes.
- Add another layer of 8 basil leaves over the cherry tomatoes.
- Add another lasagna sheet.
- Smear this lasagna sheet with the final third of the tomato mix, again making sure you cover the whole sheet.
- Add a layer of the mozzarella - the remaining half.
- Add a layer of the second half of the sliced cherry tomatoes
- Drizzle 1/2 a tsp of balsamic vinegar over this layer of cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the shredded parmesan over the cherry tomatoes.
- Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Garnish with the final 8 basil leaves.