Well that’s a mouthful. And a delicious one at that.
I’ve already told you about all the ways I’d like to consume this lightened up vodka sauce. Forget complementing food, I’ve been reduced to (or have graduated to?) slurping it by the spoonful. Straight – no pasta in sight. It might not have been my most dignified culinary moment, but holy guilty pleasure. My love for this sauce has bloomed into a gotta-have it-can’t-live-without-it sort of thing, and I’m totally okay with that. Please don’t send help.
This vodka sauce pasta bake includes several of my favorite food items, firstly shells.
Does anyone else have favorite pasta shapes? Shells are up there on my list for their sauce-retaining abilities (and with this sauce, that characteristic is key). I’ve never met a rotini pasta salad I didn’t love, and those little twisties, gemelli, are rapidly climbing my list, too.
Next there’s bacon, because what doesn’t bacon make better? Ditto for the mozzarella. Then there’s this crispy panko topping, which is super simple to make and tastes to DIE for. It’s just panko tossed with a smidge of olive oil, which is then scattered over top of the pasta pre-bake. Is it socially acceptable to top all my food with crispy panko? Salads? Eggs? Maybe don’t answer that…
While my lightened up vodka sauce recipe yields enough sauce to cover approximately 5-6 dinner-sized servings of pasta, I recommend making a double batch so you can indulge in two ways. First – over your pasta shape of choice. Want to talk about indulgent? Try it over lobster-filled ravioli. Insert smiley-with-heart-eyes emoji here. Then use the leftover sauce at a later date in this vodka sauce pasta bake. Having the homemade sauce premade in the fridge (or the freezer) brings the time down on this bake to an acceptable dinner-after-work level. Yes!
Technically you can sub in standard tomato sauce for the vodka sauce if you’re in a hurry or if that better suits your fancy. I won’t judge! I bet that version would also be tasty. But I’d recommend giving it a whirl using the vodka sauce. Rich, creamy, and optionally spicy. Y-U-M.
- 1 12-oz box pasta (I used shells)
- 1 batch of Lightened Up Vodka Sauce, approx. 4 1/2 cups sauce
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (I used part-skim)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cook pasta until slightly underdone. For the shells, I cooked them for approximately 8-9 minutes. Drain water, and return pasta to saucepan.
- Pour vodka sauce, bacon crumbles, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese into the saucepan and stir until sauce evenly coats the pasta and all ingredients are combined.
- Pour pasta mixture into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish and press slightly to even out the top.
- Scatter remaining 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella evenly over top of the pasta.
- In a small bowl, stir together olive oil and panko bread crumbs. Scatter bread crumb mixture over top of pasta and mozzarella.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until cheese has melted and browned.