Baked Skillet Pasta With Cheddar and Spiced Onions
In this warming skillet pasta bake, onions — sautéed with cumin, coriander and allspice until golden and aromatic — do double duty. They form the base of the tomato sauce that's used to coat the pasta, and are mixed with grated Cheddar for the topping, where strands of onions mingle with the melted, gooey cheese. It’s satisfying and easy, with the pasta baked in the same skillet as the sauce. Serve it as a meatless main course with a crisp salad alongside, or as a rich side to a lighter chicken or fish dish.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 6tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3large onions, thinly sliced
- 1large bay leaf
- 1 ½teaspoons ground coriander
- 1teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of cayenne, plus more to taste
- 1 ¼teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- 3fat garlic cloves, minced
- 1teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛teaspoon ground allspice
- 1(15-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 1pound small pasta, such as rotini or shells
- ¾cup chopped parsley or cilantro (or use a combination of cilantro and parsley), plus more for serving
- 8ounces shredded Cheddar
- ½cup grated Parmesan
- Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Step 1Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add onions and bay leaf, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and browned in spots, 12 to 20 minutes. (Reduce heat if the pan starts to scorch.) Lower heat to medium, and stir in coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 more minute. Transfer half the onions to a bowl and reserve (leave the bay leaf in the skillet).
Step 2Add garlic, cumin seeds, pepper and allspice to the skillet, and stir. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the juice from the canned tomatoes. Use your hands or kitchen scissors to squish or cut the tomatoes into pieces and add to pan. Fill the empty tomato can with water, and pour into the skillet. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste, and add more salt and cayenne if you like. Remove bay leaf.
Step 3As mixture cooks, heat oven to 400 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just about 2 minutes shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, and drain pasta.
Step 4Stir pasta, reserved pasta water, and parsley into skillet with tomato sauce. Top with reserved browned onions, Cheddar and Parmesan. Transfer to oven and bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. If you like, you can run the pan under the broil to brown the top, or leave it as is. Let cool slightly, top with more parsley, if desired, and serve with hot sauce, if you like.