Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baked Ziti

Well a teething 7 month old has left me especially exhausted in the evenings and heading to bed when I can. He's doing better today and thus I'm back to share another recipe.

This is a comfort food dish that I lightened up a bit and this time I've included the recipe. You can use just about any pasta you wish, I used Rigatoni. I also like to make this with whole wheat pasta or try half regular pasta and half wheat pasta if you aren't ready to use all wheat. You can really customize this dish and make it your own. We are still harvesting zucchini from our garden! I think we must have harvested about 45 zucchini from our one plant this year! I love zucchini but it's getting harder to find new ways to prepare it, luckily we have family and friends who have been nice enough to take some off our hands. You can dice up just about any favorite vegetable and add it to this dish. Also, for a more substantial entrée you can add some ground turkey!

Recipe: (serves 8)
Ingredients:
16 ounces ziti pasta, or other short pasta
3 medium zucchini, cubed (or substitute your favorite vegetable)
3 medium vine ripe tomatoes, diced (or another fav veg)
1 cup part-skim low-fat ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella
1 jar (24 ounces) of your favorite pasta sauce; or you can always use homemade (~3 1/2 cups)
*optional* 3/4 pound lean ground turkey, cooked until no longer pink and fat drained

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425'F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package instructions; drain, drizzle with olive oil lightly to prevent sticking and set aside.

2. Combine vegetables in a saucepan over medium high heat, drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
Sauté until tender and cooked through, remove from heat, set aside. *If adding meat, add the cooked meat to the vegetables, set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and half the Mozzarella

4. Spread about 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Add 1/2 of the pasta and 1/2 of the vegetable (& meat) mixture. Divide the ricotta mixture in half and spread one half over the pasta and veggies using your fingers to dollop it around. Spread 1 cup of sauce over cheese layer. Repeat layers with remaining pasta, veggies (& meat), ricotta mixture and sauce. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining Mozzarella.

5. Bake in a 425'F oven until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and fresh green salad.

{Options}
To store in Refrigerator: Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to prepare, let casserole sit on counter top at room temperature for ~30 minutes before baking as above.

To Freeze: Prepare through step 4; cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and freeze up to one month. I suggest using a disposable container or lining your casserole dish with foil so that the casserole can be popped out once frozen solid, that way your dish isn't stranded in the freezer.

To Bake from Frozen: Preheat oven to 400'F. Bake, covered with foil, until center is warm, about 2 hours. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 20 minutes more.

To Bake from Thawed: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400'F and bake, covered with foil, until center is warm, about 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, about 10-15 minutes more. Every oven is different and cooking times may vary.

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