Valentine's Pasta al Forno

Pasta is a big deal in my house. It neatly incorporates (conceals) meat, veggies & greens - and always lasts a few days. A few years ago I started to make my own marinara sauce, I must have started around the same time I caught the gardening bug. When I had my fill of BLT sandwiches, I started to make/can my own marinara for quick dinners & soups come winter-time.

Valentine's Day is typically cold and the fam was in the mood for something baked & cheesy - time for pasta al forno. Pasta al forno translates into, baked pasta. Yum. Yum. Yum. After clearing the noodle shape with my 4yo (shells, please) I got started.

Ingredients: - 1 jar of homemade marinara - 1/2 bag of chopped frozen spinach - 1 Mozzerella ball (buffalo in water if your grocery store has it), sliced into rounds - 1/2 cup of shredded asiago cheese - 1/2 cup of shredded gruyere cheese - 2 cubes of frozen pesto cubes - parmigiano reggiano block, for grating on to pasta - 1 box of pasta, preferably something that will hold sauce like shells, ziti, penne, etc..

Method: - preheat oven to 425 - get a large pot of water boiling for the noodles, cook according to box instructions for al dente pasta, less 1 minute - in a sauce pot, bring marinara up to a simmer, add pesto cubes, & spinach - before the pasta is done cooking, find a large baking dish (ceramic or glass) - scoop pasta out with a hand strainer into the baking dish and ladle in the sauce. Stop to stir & switch off between noodles & pasta, slowly stirring (or you'll be wearing it) - top the pasta with the shredded cheese & lay the mozz circles on top - bake on the middle rack for 15-20 mins, until bubbly & brown under the broiler (totally woth it) - allow the pasta to cool for a few minutes - if you can - before serving it up and topping it with a healthy grate of parm & red pepper flakes

Do you have a secret ingredient in your marinara? Or a veg that conceals nicely within the mass of sauce, pasta & cheese?

Hope that you have a warm & cheesy Valentine's Day!