The other day, Wooden Nickels sent me an article, a headline, something, I don’t remember, about how “mom brain” isn’t real.
Mom brain is absolutely real. You know all those studies that show how important sleep is for making you a functional person? (See here for what is perhaps the most applicable.) Well moms don’t sleep. Even moms with “good sleepers” don’t sleep because their babies are teething, or have learned to stand and have decided the best time to practice this skill is the middle of the night, or the moms go back to work and upset the balance in which their life was hanging. And moms of bad sleepers? Ugh, just come sit by me. Moms don’t sleep. And a lack of sleep kills brain cells.
Enter, mom brain.
Mom brain is what allowed me to get entirely through the making of this dish, up to the point I needed to sprinkle the assembled casserole with cheese, and realize I didn’t ever put the basil in the pesto. And by realize, I simply mean I saw two packages of basil sitting pretty in the drawer in the fridge, and then thought, huh, isn’t basil an essential ingredient in pesto? (Answer: yes!)
Here’s the great news. Cooking is incredibly forgiving, and I loved this baked pesto rigatoni anyway.
To make a 9×13, or two 8×8 casserole(s), you will need:
For the pasta:
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- 2-3 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (I used a mozzarella and provolone blend)
- pesto (recipe follows)
For the pesto:
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup basil (unless you claim mom brain and leave it out)
- ¾ cup almonds or pine nuts
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large cloves garlic
- juice of 1 lemon
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, chop up the tomatoes – I just cut the little ones in half. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, place all the pesto ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Go ahead and stick a glass measuring cup in that boiling water and pull out 1/2 C, sans pasta, to thin out the sauce a little bit.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the cooked noodles with the chopped tomatoes and pesto. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish (or two 8x8s if you want to share with someone else) and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover loosely with well-oiled aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Crisp things up by cooking 5 minutes longer without the foil.