Pasta Bake with Awesome Sauce Recipe

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This pasta bake with a savory tomato “awesome sauce” and gooey pools of mozzarella makes for a perfect meal to serve a crowd.

What’s cozier than gathering around a pasta bake? This pasta bake is all gooey, cheesy comfort food. We’ve designed it as main dish for gathering around the table: and we’ve been making it for years for family and friends. It’s loved by many in our family for the awesome sauce: the tangy tomato sauce with a hint of savoriness from a secret ingredient. Keep reading for the recipe!

This hearty pasta bake is fitting for sharing with family and friends in the chilly months ahead. It’s made with Alex’s “awesome sauce”, savory tomatoes simmered with garlic, herbs, a little butter and olive oil, and a secret ingredient: chopped green olives. They add a savory saltiness to the pasta bake along with some complexity, and if you chop them small enough, olive haters will never know. (It’s true, we made this for an olive-hating friend and she was pleasantly surprised.)

Mix the awesome sauce with some cavatappi pasta and top with gooey fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and you’ve got a pasta bake of belly-filling goodness. If you can’t find cavatappi, any short shape will do: penne or rigatoni would work well, and feel free to substitute gluten-free pasta for GF diets.


  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta, or other short pasta
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 6-ounce dry weight can ripe green olives (pitted)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can Muir Glen Organic crushed tomatoes (original or fire roasted)
  • 1 15-ounce can Muir Glen Organic diced tomatoes (original or fire roasted)
  • 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into disks
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Boil 6 quarts water with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the pasta and boil until al dente, about 6 to 7 minutes, then drain. Pour into a 9” x 13” pan and add a glug of olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic and shallot. Drain the olives and finely chop them.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the olives, tomatoes and their juices, balsamic vinegar, butter, nutmeg, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, pepper, and honey and stir to combine. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust salt as desired. Add the spinach leaves and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until tender.
  5. Pour the sauce into the pasta in the baking dish and mix to combine. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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