When it comes to eats, Troy knows what he likes. In 2009, he decided to start keeping a list of his Top 10 favorite meals that I make for him. One that Sprout also loves, is Baked Ziti.
One of the things I love about this recipe is its versatility. I’ve made it with beef and turkey, various assortments of veggies, and cheeses. Because of my food allergies, I usually use two smaller dishes instead of a 9×13, but you can do whatever pleases you!
Again, I made this recipe trying to keep it healthier and fun. Modify as you wish, I do! Sometimes depending on my mood or what’s needing to be used in the fridge. This time, I added Spinach – yum!
Another option I have used at times, is to prepare the entire dish during Sprout’s nap, up to baking, cover and refrigerate until dinner time. This also makes this meal a super dish to prepare and share with a family who needs a break. Just prepare up to ‘baking’, and take them a ready-made meal.. just heat and eat!
In England, ziti is not readily available, so I substitute penne and no matter what, always whole wheat pasta!
Lets talk meat – We have come to appreciate the flavor of organic, free-range meat, so while I suggest it, I realize it’s not always possible for availability or financial reasons. Also, I stay around the 90/10 range. Any more, I find to be too greasy, any less, and I believe much flavor is lost. I pick my battles! Oh, and in the UK, ‘ground’ is ‘minced’.
- 2 cups whole wheat ziti (or penne!)
- 1 lb (about ½ kg) ground beef or turkey
- 2- 24 oz jars pasta sauce
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2-3 cups chopped vegetables – (optional – but I often do this to use vegetables in the fridge that need to be used before going bad!) Today I used onion, red pepper, and zucchini/courgette (English name)
- 1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 10 oz fresh baby spinach, washed
- 6 oz sour cream (called soured cream in UK)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese (I buy rounds and tear it, but you could buy sliced or shredded)
- 8 oz provolone cheese (same thing, just as long as you can layer in your dish!)
- ⅓ cup fresh chopped basil (optional)
- Pepper to taste
(A note on images – these were taken in our Oxford flat. Being tight on space, I do not have the cooking tools I am accustomed to -i.e. large pan, etc!)
Saute vegetables in large skillet, adding pepper to taste, then transfer to a bowl.
Brown meat and garlic in same skillet used for vegetables.
While meat is cooking, prepare pasta, according to directions on package.
Add pasta sauce and sauteed veggies to cooked meat and mix together to distribute flavor.
Prepare (1) 9×13 casserole dish or 2 smaller dishes with cooking spray (to help with cleanup!). From here, I would write an essay distinguishing amounts of each layer to add, so use your judgement if you are doing 1 or 2 casserole dishes
Layer pasta, meat sauce, sour cream, (light layer) mozzarella and provolone cheese, spinach. Add another layer of pasta, meat sauce, and finally remaining mozzarella and provolone cheese.
Layer pasta, meat sauce, and spinach. Add another layer of pasta and sauce.
Bake at 350 F (170 C) for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden/bubbly. About 10 minutes prior to completion, add fresh basil – or save to top once dish is complete. I have found adding basil for the entire baking results in burnt basil. Eew.
ps- I was hungry and forgot to take final pic before serving.. this will have to do!
Baked Ziti in all its cheesy-goodness for the Hubs
Sounds involved, but it’s rather quick to make and most believed it took all day! Additionally, it reheats well (so I like making a lot) and Troy, who is not keen on left-overs, nor reheated frozen food said it tastes great both ways! You heard it here, folks!