A couple weeks ago I made dinner for the fam before heading to yoga class. I left a hot skillet of baked rotini and bowls of sweet, fresh spinach and spicy arugula on the table before heading out the door.
Before this yoga-night dinner, I’d made variations of baked pasta many times before, with decent reviews from my family. Almost everyone liked it, but my kids weren’t asking me to make it for their birthday meal or begging for a Baked Rotini night to replace Pizza Night.
But this time was different. When I walked in the door after returning home, the first thing I heard about was the deliciousness of the baked rotini. What did you do, Mom, and can you make it that way again next time???
What I did was find out about Samin Nosrat (and yes I will make it that way next time!).
Samin is the author of Salt Fat Acid Heat and star of the Netflix documentary by the same name. In her book, she teaches the reader how to cook by taste and with little dependence on a recipe, all by understanding the basic principles of salt, fat, acid, and heat and their effect on our food and palate.
My first step was borrowing this book from the library. My next was returning it to the library and purchasing my own copy. This one is a keeper.
Back to the baked rotini. I decided to make this recipe following Samin’s advice in these two ways:
- I bought a bunch of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, which is her go-to day-to-day salt.
- I salted the pasta water. For some reason, I’ve never in my life salted pasta water. Never! For no good reason besides ignorance! But this time I salted our food from the inside by making my pasta water as “salty as the sea”, as Samin likes to say. (You have to taste the water as you salt and compare it to your ocean experience–quite fun!)
Meanwhile, I preheated my well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven until it was toasty hot. Even though I hadn’t read her section on heat yet, I decided to bake this rotini the way I make skillet cornbread, with hopes of getting that delicious crusty edge (and I succeeded!).
Once my rotini was cooked al dente and drained (but not rinsed), I tossed the pasta with a mixture of eggs, marinara sauce, and finely grated fresh Parmesan.
I removed my hot skillet from the oven, added olive oil, returned it to the oven, and let the oil heat up for about 5 minutes.
Then I took out the skillet, CAREFULLY put the rotini/sauce mixture into the skillet, topped with a little more Parmesan, and let it bake for about 30-35 minutes.
And my family loved it.
Our favorite way to enjoy Baked Rotini is atop a bed of our salad spinach (the kids’ preference) or arugula (Dan’s and my preference). Let us know what fresh green YOU like to pair with your pasta in the comments!
- 1 pound rotini
- 2 large eggs
- 25 oz jar marinara sauce
- 4 oz freshly finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 1/4 pound fresh arugula
- 1/4 pound fresh salad spinach
- Place well-seasoned cast iron skillet in oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook rotini in a pot of boiling salted water, stirring often, especially if using gluten free rotini. Cook until al dente, then immediately drain pasta. Do not rinse.
- Once skillet is thoroughly heated, add olive oil and return to oven for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add marinara sauce and 3 oz of Parmesan. Combine well.
- Add rotini to egg/marinara mixture and toss until pasta is well-coated with sauce.
- Remove skillet from oven. Pour pasta mixture into skillet very carefully, as the hot oil will splatter.
- Smooth top and sprinkle remaining 1 oz of Parmesan over top.
- Baked for 30-35 minutes, until top is browned.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- In summer, try adding chopped basil and/or making your own marinara sauce with garden-fresh tomatoes.