Pasta in tomato sauce can be a fantastic feast—it just needs a few accents to take it beyond basic. Luckily, we’ve got some good ones. This penne in marinara comes with zucchini, Tuscan herbs and spices, basil, and a cheesy breadcrumb crust. Once you’ve tossed everything together and popped it in the oven, you’re just minutes away from cheesy, herbaceous, saucy, and just ever so slightly spicy bliss.
Produced in a facility that processes milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean.
Tuscan Heat Spice
Heat broiler to high or oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash and dry all produce. Trim and dice zucchini into ¼-inch pieces. Halve, peel, and dice onion. Mince or grate garlic. Cut mozzarella into ½-inch cubes.
Once water is boiling, add penne to pot. Cook until al dente, 9-11 minutes. Carefully scoop out and reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water (¾ cup for 4 servings), then drain.
Meanwhile, heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large, preferably ovenproof, pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and cook, stirring, until just browned, 4-6 minutes. Stir in onion, garlic, and half the Tuscan Heat Spice (we’ll use the rest later). Cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add marinara sauce, penne, remaining Tuscan Heat Spice, and reserved pasta cooking water to pan with veggies; stir to combine. Let simmer until warmed through, 3-4 minutes. Stir in half the Parmesan. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. TIP: If your pan is not ovenproof, transfer penne mixture to a baking dish at this point.
In a small bowl, stir together panko, remaining Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil. Top penne mixture with mozzarella, then panko mixture.
Transfer pasta to top rack and broil or bake until panko is golden brown, sauce is bubbly, and cheese has melted, 5-7 minutes. (TIP: Watch carefully to avoid burning.) Let cool slightly, then divide between plates or bowls. Drizzle with basil oil and serve.