It seems unfathomable that Christmas was less than two months ago at this point; life has been jam packed since the calendar turned to January! Over the holidays, we had dinner with some members of my husband’s family and cheese tortellini in a pink sauce was on the menu. My husband and brother-in-law had talked about this pink sauce for years, and I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to try it. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it! I asked my father-in-law’s cousin how she made it, and she said it was a simple combination of her marinara sauce and a béchamel. I tucked that information away for a rainy day, and less than a few weeks later I decided to recreate her meal, except I baked it as a casserole and added even more cheese because… why not?!
I used packages of refrigerated tortellini for this dish, but you could easily use fresh or even frozen (I would par-boil the frozen ones before baking). Feel free to play around with the different variations of tortellini as well – I love cheese, but you could use meat or spinach as well, whatever you prefer. I have such a soft spot for baked pasta dishes; they’re absolutely one of my ultimate comfort foods. I can’t think of a better way to wait out these last few frigid days of winter before spring arrives than to bake up a dish like this!
I served this along with some homemade garlic bread, which may have just been the most amazing garlic bread I’ve ever had. Stay tuned for that recipe tomorrow!
Make the Béchamel Sauce: In a medium saucepan placed over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour turns light brown and emits a nutty aroma. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Once all of the milk has been incorporated, whisk in the nutmeg, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Once simmering, cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat, and add the shredded provolone a handful at a time, stirring until it melts. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper, then set aside and let cool to warm room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the béchamel sauce and the spaghetti sauce.
In a very large bowl, combine the tortellini and three-quarters of the sauce mixture. Turn into a 9x13-inch casserole dish and spread into an even layer.
Drizzle the remaining sauce over the top of the tortellini. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses evenly over the top.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is browned and bubbling on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.