Home Food DigiBites: A Comforting Pasta Dish For Election Day

DigiBites: A Comforting Pasta Dish For Election Day

The Epicurean Exchange

Hello News24/680.com followers!

Chef Charlie

If you would like…or NEED…an easy, delicious, comforting dish to prepare tonight, I offer my daughter’s favorite pasta dish since she was 6. Most of my best cooking was developed as a dad, and I had a lot of practice with the twins. Remember too, good food does not need to be complicated or fancy. Wholesome ingredients and great flavor is all you need!

This recipe features a basic white sauce (béchamel) flavored with onion, garlic, diced tomato and basil. During the summer, use fresh, peeled and seeded tomatoes. But at this time, use good, quality canned and be sure to drain them well as the extra liquid will water-down the sauce and it won’t thicken properly.

As mentioned, you can add chicken to the dish for added protein and to satisfy hearty-eaters.

If you don’t want to prepare this large quantity, simply halve the recipe. I have included the 1/2 ingredient amounts (in parentheses), which will produce enough to serve just 2 to 4 people.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my daughter does!
– Chef Charlie

This is Amelia. She enjoys good food as much as I do!

Baked Penne with Tomato Béchamel Sauce and Basil

1 (1/2) small yellow onion, cut into a 1/4-inch dice
2 (1) cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 (2) tablespoons butter
1/4 (3T) cup flour
3 (1 1/2) cups whole milk
1 – 24 (15) ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (1/2) pound penne pasta
1/2 (1/4) cup chopped fresh basil, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 (1) cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Variation: If you would like to add some protein to the dish, 2 cups of shredded chicken breast works nicely.

•     Preheat the oven to 375˚F

For the Tomato Béchamel:

•     In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter until frothy. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the flour all at once, and whisk to combine and cook the flour, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk whisking constantly to remove any flour lumps. The mixture will thicken; continue to add the milk until all is incorporated. At this point, the mixture is thin, but continue to stir over medium heat. The flour in the sauce will “bloom” (absorb liquid) and will thicken to the proper consistency after about 5 – 6 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and chopped basil, and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to gently simmer as pasta is prepared.

•     While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne pasta, al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, and return to the pot.

•     Add the sauce (and shredded chicken, if using) to the cook penne and stir to combine.

Note: this dish can be served at this point. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If serving at a later time, add the following step…

•    Transfer the cooked, dressed pasta to a 14-inch round or 13-by-9-in baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese. Place on the top rack of the oven and bake until pasta is heated through and the cheese is lightly browned. Serve garnished with the remaining basil.

Serves 6 to 8

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