Some days there is nothing better than a little comfort food for dinner. Baked Ziti is one of my all time favorites for a quick and easy casserole supper that is kid-friendly and makes for delicious leftovers. I was a bit skeptical when the dietitian came back with recommendations to use half the amount of cheese in the original recipe and to switch to whole wheat pasta (I’ve just never been a big fan.) I decided to add in two small squash instead of extra meat and prepared the dinner according to the recipe. I couldn’t have been more thrilled with how the meal came out – absolutely delicious! Paired with a small side salad, it was a huge hit with both my 15-month old daughter and husband. I will definitely be making this again and would encourage any mom to try this recipe. You could even assemble everything ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bon appétit!
Baked Ziti (Original Recipe)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 whole Large Onion, Diced
- 1 pound Italian Sausage
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 1 can (28 Ounce Can) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
- 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce
- 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt And Pepper, to taste
- 16 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
- 1 tub (15 Ounce) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
- 1-1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
- 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1 whole Egg
- Fresh Minced Parsley
Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely). Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine. Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the pasta before serving.
If You’re Shopping at Langenstein’s…
Try using Marciantes locally produced italian sausage and Muir Glen organic marinara sauce to take this baked ziti to the next level!
A Touro Dietitian’s Perspective
I like all the natural seasonings in this recipe. I would add some fresh basil as well for an additional calorie-free flavor. Pull out the sausage and add tasso or chicken, and switch to 93% lean ground beef. These two meat swaps will save you about 1800 calories. Use “no salt added” tomatoes and sauce. How could you have Baked Ziti without cheese? This recipe does call for PLENTY of cheese. So let’s cut the portion in half during cooking. OR cook without the cheese and add you own cheese to your individual finished product. This way you can save calories and have discretion on the amount of cheese you personally consume. Also, choose whole wheat pasta. A lower carb suggestion would be to use sliced squash, zucchini or eggplant instead of pasta.