Pizza Pasta – A perfect marriage of taste!

About a week or so ago, we had a farewell party at our home for my daughter and her husband.  Steve is doing some military training and will be off to Gagetown, NB on Saturday.  😦  Kirstie is pregnant.  She’s having our first grandchild. The thought of having her a thousand or so miles away was tough but I’m ok, I can deal!  We wanted to give them as well as family and friends an opportunity to say goodbye.  We invited lots of people, and as usual, some didn’t rsvp but showed up. No problem… just a “food” issue!  How many do you prepare for?  Yikes.  Well, everyone got fed so that’s a good thing.

The menu revolved around finger foods and small appetizers; meatballs in a sweet & spicy sauce, bacon wrapped jalapeno meatballs (’nuff said… yum!), fruit with Kirstie’s favourite fruit dip, veggies & dip, cheese, individual quiches, etc., and the one dish that was devoured as quickly as it went out…. and as my husband kindly pointed it “it’s not a finger food”… Pizza Pasta!

Imagine combining two of your favourite foods into ONE dish!  Can you say “party in your mouth”?  I found the recipe on Chef Michael Smith’s website so full credit goes to him.  Of course, anything that comes out of Chef Michael’s kitchen is always yummy good and simple to make.  By the way, Congratulations to Chef Michael on being awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal!  You make Canada proud Chef!  [of course, my son Jason also received one!!!… he makes his MOM proud… as well as Canada!]

Okay, back to the party!  ….

Pizza Pasta is the perfect marriage of two wonderful dishes into one!  Speaking biblically “the two shall become one” and in this dish, that is exactly what you get!  What makes it so unique is the roasting of the ‘pizza’ ingredients in the oven before adding the pasta.  This isn’t a dish that you can whip up in ten minutes, so if you make it, plan for some roasting time, about an hour for those tomatoes and onions to reach their delicious roasted best!  Up for the challenge? It’s really quite simple!

The recipe has a copyright on it, so I can’t just reprint it here… sadly…. but I am happy to provide you with the link: what I can do is run through the list without being “specific”… I hope that bypasses copyright?  If not, Chef Michael, forgive me, but it was AWESOME!

Now, before you click away on the link above and leave me (sniff sniff) – let me continue…..

The best part, as I said was the roasting.  Below is a beautiful picture (natch!) of the roasted tomato sauce before I added the pasta.  The aroma that wafted through the house was UNBELIEVABLE!  It took so much willpower not to just get a fork and dig in as it was!

Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!
Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!

So, here’s what I did:

Start by preheating the oven to 400 F.

I took about a pound of spicy pepperoni and chopped it up.  Michael says 1″ pieces but that’s a bit big, so i did it a bit smaller than that.   Then I cut up two relatively large onions – don’t go nuts here looking for the two biggest onions you can find. Just cut two onions. If you have small ones, use 3.  You get the idea.  You should cut the onions in half, then quarters, then eighths.  Okie dokie? Following me?  Good… let’s continue….  Michael suggests 4 pints of cherry tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes and used about 3 pints.  Suggestion – go with Chef Michael’s 4 pints of Cherry tomatoes – juicier!  You’ll need that later.  Then he tell us to peel a whole head of garlic and slice it all in half. Check.  Did that one!  LOVE LOVE LOVE my garlic!  When it’s roasted it loses a lot of its pungency so don’t be afraid of it, use it!  Toss all of these ingredients in a large bowl with 3 tbsp of dried oregano and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I didn’t measure.  I just tossed and coated.  My bad?

Turn these ingredients from your bowl into a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish.  This is where I used my most fave – my Pampered Chef dish.  It’s big, it’s deep, and it’s pretty enough to put on my table afterwards! What would I do without Karen? My fave PC Consultant who keeps me well stocked!  Okay, once in your own fave dish, pop it into your preheated oven and bake!  After about 30 minutes, stir it up and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.  About 1 hour or so in total.  Your tomatoes, onions, and garlic will be beautifully roasted and the pepperoni will be darker and aromatic!  Oh I can smell it all over again.. Getting hungry?  Yuuuup!

While this is in the oven roasting away, you can get started on the pasta!  Now, again, Chef Michael says use 1/2 a package of penne. I wanted to feed lots of people so I used a whole package.  What I learned was Chef Michael is the professional and I am not!  Use 1/2!  Unless you want to cook the whole thing and save 1/2 for another time?  Go ahead.  Remember – you need to cook pasta in salted water – pasta has very little flavour, so seasoning the water with salt is a good thing!  When it’s tender, drain it but don’t rinse it!   You want that starchiness!! Reason? Helps the sauce stick to the pasta!  Oh Chef, you are so smart!!

So, recap… roasting is done.  Pasta is done.   Turn your oven to broil now.

Stir the hot pasta into the hot ‘sauce’.  Now… HERE’S where it gets even yummier!  Take about 4 oz of cream cheese. I used light.. after all I AM watching my waist! (no I’m not) Cube the cream cheese and stir it into the pasta/base mixture.  Is the smell driving you wild  yet?  If it’s not… you are not a true pizza/pasta fan!  😉

Top the whole thing with shredded mozzarella – As much as you want!  You-know-who says 3 cups, I think I used about 3 cups too.

Ready to go under the broiler now!
Ready to go under the broiler now!

Pop it back in the oven under the broiler until it’s bubbly and looks a little golden on top.   Keep an eye on it – it won’t take long – about 5 minutes or so.

What you are left with is a creamy, yummy, pasta dish that tastes like PIZZA!  I wish I had a picture of the finished dish, but the second it came out I was too overcome by its beauty and aroma, but the second it came out it went on the table and was eaten pretty quickly!

So really, the “time” is in the oven roasting.  Cutting those little tomatoes in half didn’t take long.  Chopping up the pepperoni didn’t take long.  Peeling the garlic… ugh… thankfully I do have a garlic peeler so it didn’t take long either.  The beauty part of the larger pieces of garlic is that if someone really doesn’t want to eat it, the pieces are large enough that they can be picked out and set aside by your guests.  Serve this with some fresh garlic bread (if you aren’t in garlic overload yet) and maybe a nice green side salad and you’ve got a fabulous dish.

For us, we just gobbled it up on its own!  Like pizza! Only on a plate… and with a fork.

Well, that’s it. I hope you try it, and that you enjoy it.

Oh… final parting words….  Turns out that my daughter is NOT moving to New Brunswick with her husband – crazy military – he’s still going, but should be back about a week before her due date!  Yikes… hope she’s not early!

Coming up next on the blog: a Valentine Day giveaway that involves – you got it, CHOCOLATE!  Make sure you tell your friends to start following so they can get in on the chocolate action!!

Until then,

Happy noshing!

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