E-Z Breezy Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini Recipe

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E-Z Breezy Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini Recipe
E-Z Breezy Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini Recipe

Buongiorno miei amata amici!
 I would stoke the red coals in our fireplace to lessen the goose bumps forming on my pale arms, if only we had a fire burning. During the chilly months of winter, I often find myself staring into our frostbitten backyard, reminiscing about the seasonal tastes of summer. Two items my organic garden provides are luscious, juicy, sweet tomatoes and the invigorating scent of sweet basil. I could enjoy these ingredients daily in my menu, when they are at the height of pleasurable taste.

On the other hand, store bought tomatoes during winter lack sweetness, they are simply acidic. They look like a tomato, but the flavor difference is extremely discernible. My body yearns for comfort foods during the winter, but craves the enticement of summer’s best garden selections. I have become the embodiment of Dante’s Divine Comedy…bouncing back and forth between extremes. I desire both the Inferno and Paradiso in my meal! Having a family that requires “friendly” food balances my vacillating scales.

Caring for a large family, I frequently construct hefty casseroles. Earlier this fall, my recipe, "Itsa Gooda Italiano Ricotta Gnocchi” became the “#1 Fall Comfort Food” by the Channel 10 News (ABC) viewers’ votes in the Sacramento region, as well as the votes from my family and friends. The delight was mine, as the prize was one I could not afford on our budget, a Le Creuset French Oven. This is ideal for my family size (with or without company) and my approach to cooking. Every time I use this Dutch/French/Italian Oven my mind slips back in time, evoking sweet recollections with my friends. My camaraderie pot infuses prayers of gratitude as they lift to the heavens.

I realized that I had not yet shared my trophy with you, cari miei lettori! Thus, combining my French Oven with the warm flavors of summer, I developed a Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini Casserole. The Mascarpone cheese gives winter’s tomatoes the sweetness of summer. The basil adds its superb minty-clove zesty goodness. All the lovely pasta and cheese just fill the body with soothing warmth through the wintry night. To make it easier you can add the Basil to the mixture before you start baking, it will just lose a tad bit of its flavor, but may be worth the time you will save. You can half this recipe for a smaller family. Enjoy!

Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini Recipe


  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • Red Pepper, flakes or powder
  • 2 Jars Marinara or 5 cups of homemade marinara/ragu sauce
  • 8 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
  • ½ cup Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs Three Cheese Tortellini (Buitoni brand is delicious) or any other flavored Tortellini you prefer
  • 1 cup Sweet Basil, covered in Olive oil, chopped or leaves rolled and sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces Mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces Fontina, grated or thinly sliced (if you don’t have this…just use more Mozzarella)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano , Parmesan, or a mixture of Parmesan and Romano, grated


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

First, if your tortellini needs to be boiled to prepare, boil water, generously salted, in a stockpot. (Remember dried pasta is to be boiled in water that is salty like the ocean.)

E-Z Breezy Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini before baking.
E-Z Breezy Cheesy Basil Baked Tortellini
before baking.
Mix the marinara with the Mascarpone cheese and Italian Parsley until well blended. The Mascarpone sweetens and makes creamy the Marinara. 

Heat olive oil in French/Dutch oven or a large, heavy flameproof casserole dish* (*see below for other option) on the stove top via medium heat until oil lightly ripples (famous chef, Joanne Weir, taught me to use this technique in her Cooking Class DVDs to know if the oil is ready). Add the onion, garlic, and some red pepper. Sauté for one minute until the aroma escalates. Pour in the Marinara and Mascarpone mixture and combine.

When tortellini is al dente, drain and add to French/Dutch oven. Stir ingredients. Cover French/Dutch Oven with lid and using pot holders, place in hot oven and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile coat Basil in olive oil, roll it up and slice thinly or chop.  The Olive oil will help the leaves not turn black when being exposed to oxidation or while baking.

Sprinkle Baked Tortellini with cheese and return to oven until golden.
Sprinkle Baked Tortellini with cheese and return to oven
until golden.
After 25 minutes, remove lid, stir the fresh basil into the tortellini mixture. Combine the Mozzarella and Fontina and sprinkle on top. Then lightly dust the top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place under broiler (not too hot so as not to ruin your dutch oven) just until cheese melts and turns lightly golden. Serve warm or hot with a side of fresh salad!

* If you do not have a French/Dutch oven, or a flameproof casserole dish, my next suggestion would be to prepare the ingredients in a stove top safe pan and then transfer the mixture to a large ovenproof pan before baking/broiling.

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