Kristin Cavallari says her Baked Penne recipe is a perfect family meal, interview

Baked Penne recipe from Kristin Cavallari, photo provided by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images on behalf of Rao’s Homemade
Baked Penne recipe from Kristin Cavallari, photo provided by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images on behalf of Rao’s Homemade /

Families are always looking for an easy, delicious family meal. Kristin Cavallari, TV personality, bestselling cookbook author and designer, is just like many other parents. A delicious recipe that appeals to everyone around the table can be a game changer. In partnership with Rao’s Homemade, her Baked Penne recipe could become the new family favorite dinner choice.

Recently, Cavallari collaborated with Rao’s Homemade to highlight the brand’s new Caramelized Onion Sauce. During a special event in Chicago, Cavallari spoke about her Baked Penne recipe, the importance of family time, and why mindful cooking is a priority in her kitchen.

In many households, pasta dishes are popular because they have wide appeal. From the flavor to the cooking ease, home cooks are happy to serve those dishes any day of the week.

When asked about the inspiration for her Baked Penne recipe, Cavallari said, “This dish is inspired by the Baked Ziti dish in my cookbook, Truly Simple. I’m half Italian so I love any kind of pasta dish, and my kids love big dishes like this. I partnered with Rao’s Homemade and we changed a few things up for The Saucery by Rao’s Homemade pop-up! We added their new Caramelized Onion Sauce which I love because it adds a subtle sweetness that elevates the dish. It’s really delicious!”

Baked Penne recipe from Kristin Cavallari
Baked Penne recipe from Kristin Cavallari, photo provided by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images on behalf of Rao’s Homemade /

That new Rao’s Homemade sauce is delicious in this dish, but it is versatile enough to be used in many ways. Whether that subtle sweetness contrasts a spicy sausage or highlights the freshness of garden vegetables, it is another way to build flavor in a dish.

When asked about creating robust flavor but avoiding that feeling of heaviness, Cavallari said, “I think it’s about building flavor, taking your time, letting everything come together. I’ll be honest, a dish like the Baked Penne is really hard to mess up! A good sauce, a noodle, a cheese…and this version is vegetarian without the sausage in my cookbook recipe. All those flavors together with a veggie, you can’t mess it up!”

Although flavor is always the priority, Cavallari understands that many families crave convenience. To get people into the kitchen, that concept needs to be front and center.

Cavallari said, “When writing my cookbook this was at the forefront of my mind, I wanted to make recipes that parents can throw together on the busiest of weekdays. I have three kids so I’m balancing a lot of different schedules, but it’s really important to me to make dinners on most nights. I need recipes that are quick and easy.”

Even if the cooking might be quick and easy, the time spend together around the table is vital. Whether it is every night or a larger gathering once a week, the food sparks a conversation that will be remember long after the plates are cleared.

In her household, Callavari stated that “Family dinners are very important to me. A good conversation starter with my kids is to say one thing they’re grateful for and the best part of their day. If they’re really into a meal, they’ll sit longer and have seconds so it’s important to me that I make food my kids love. They love this Baked Penne, burrito bowls, poke bowls. That’s why I love food so much – it really does bring people together.”

While that togetherness nourishes in a meaningful way, Cavallari believes that mindful cooking influences the food that she chooses to serve. She mentioned that “I try to eat very clean when I’m at home because I’ve seen directly how much better I feel when I do. It’s important to me to integrate clean eating into my meals, and my kids’ meals. I try to choose products like Rao’s Homemade that contain clean ingredients made the authentic way without compromising on flavor.”

Whether it is Sunday supper or just a mid-week quick dinner, Cavallari’s Baked Penne recipe featuring Rao’s Homemade Sauce could be the dish that everyone wants to be served time and again. Ready to get cooking?