Mike's folks are in town this weekend and we made delicious regular and gluten-free pancakes which I will post soon, but we collectively decided that pancakes are not a good Sunday evening recipe to post- who is going to remember them by the end of the week? On the other hand, Baked Ziti (or penne or rigatoni) is a great weekday dinner. Furthermore, this recipe in particular lends itself very well to splitting into two batches and freezing for later use, or packing up to give to another family who could use some meal help. This is also a very fast and easy recipe to throw together quickly. Recently we made a batch for a co-worker's family and were told that their finicky toddler ate it up- serious praise if you know just how discerning a toddler can be!
And while we are talking about toddlers, why not toss in a handful of finely chopped or pureed spinach or zucchini into the sauce when you are making it to boost the goodness?
- 1lb Ziti, Rigatoni, Penne or other totally tubular pasta*
- 2C Mozzarella cheese, shredded**
- 1/4C Pecorino or Parmesan cheese**
- 5-6C Marinara (See Below) or Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 1lb ground beef, ground turkey breast or chicken/turkey sausage (optional)***
- 1T Olive Oil
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
- 2T minced fresh basil or 2T basil pesto
- 1/4t sugar
- salt/pepper to taste
1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 400deg. Meanwhile, bring 4qt of salted water to boil in large pot.
~*(see note below regarding using the ground meat)~
2. If using already made sauce, heat it on the stove on medium heat in small/medium sauce pan. Otherwise, prepare the Quick Marinara as follows: Heat the olive oil and garlic in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant (~1-2 minutes). Stir in the tomatoes with the juice and bring to simmer, cooking until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in the basil/pesto, sugar and salt/pepper to taste.
3. Cook the pasta according to directions for 'al dente' and drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
4. Return pasta to the pot, then add the sauce to the pasta and stir, using the reserved pasta water to loosed the mixture as needed.
5. Spread half of the pasta mix into an oiled 9x13" pan (or 2 9x9" pans), sprinkle half of the Mozzarella and half of the parm/pec. Spread the remaining pasta mix and cover with the rest of the cheese.
6. Bake until cheeses turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand ~5min before serving.
*Gluten-Free Note: I used Trader Joe's Brown Rice Penne and it was delicious! I haven't tried freezing these noodles yet, but with all leftover GF pasta, I would add some extra liquid during the second heating process. Please, if anyone tries this, do leave a comment for all of our growth.
**Dairy-Free Note: I used soy-cheese and Pecorino and it was also great for me. Try any cheese alternative here as long as it melts. Even a goat Feta would be excellent!
***Meaty Note: If using ground beef, sausage, turkey or your favorite other choice, add this to the pan and cook it fully prior to adding your Roasted Tomato Sauce. If using the Quick Marinara, add it in the oil/garlic step and continue as listed once the meat is fully cooked. Incidentally, in our house we found that half turkey breast and half chix sausage is our favorite mix. I typically make a boatload of the meat sauce and freeze what I don't use for quick future meals.
|Because I was making a standard pasta and GF option, I didn't mix the noodles with the sauce this time- instead I layered them all in like a lasagna so I could make one sauce, but separate pans of noodles.|
|Immediate on the L, freezer on the R|
|This is the GF/DF version- yum!|