Easy Baked Ziti
This is an oldie but goodie from Aviva's first cookbooks, Peanut Butter Stew and Couscous, Too! Depending on what’s in the fridge or freezer, you can make this casserole more interesting by adding some vegetables or cooked meat.
- 16 oz. whole wheat or regular ziti (use wheat/gluten-free, if needed)
- 26 oz. red pasta sauce store-bought or homemade
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta or low fat cottage cheese (or use any variety)
- 2 cups fresh or shredded mozzarella cheese diced if using fresh
- 1 - 2 cup frozen peas, diced bell pepper, shredded zucchini, or diced cooked chicken or sausage optional
- 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray a large deep casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large pot, cook the noodles according to the package directions until they are al dente (slightly firm to the bite), and drain them.
- Return the noodles to the pot and toss them with the sauce, ricotta or cottage cheese, mozzarella, and any vegetables or cooked meat (optional).
- Spread the mixture evenly in the casserole dish and top it with Parmesan cheese. (Note: At this time the casserole can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)
- Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or slightly longer for a firmer top. Serve it immediately, refrigerate it for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months.
Slow Cooker Directions
- (Makes 4 generous servings) Decrease ziti to 4 cups (approximately 8 oz.). Do not pre-cook the noodles. Pour 1/3 of the pasta sauce into the slow cooker and swirl it around to cover the bottom. Top with 2 cups of the ziti, all of the optional ingredients, if using, 1/2 of the ricotta or cottage cheese and 1/3 of the mozzarella, then another 1/3 of the sauce, the remainder of the ziti, the remainder of the ricotta or cottage cheese and another 1/3 of the mozzarella. Finally, pour in the remainder of the sauce and spread it to cover all, topping with the remainder of the mozzarella. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Cook on low for 6 - 7 hours or high for 3 - 4 hours, until the pasta is done. Be careful not to overcook, or the pasta will become mushy. (Slow cooker cooking times may vary—Get to know your slow cooker and, if necessary, adjust cooking times accordingly.)
Do Ahead or Delegate: Cook the pasta and store tossed with a little oil to prevent sticking, dice or shred the mozzarella if necessary and refrigerate, dice the vegetables, chicken, or sausage if using and refrigerate the chicken or sausage, grate the Parmesan cheese if necessary and refrigerate, assemble and refrigerate the casserole, or fully prepare and refrigerate or freeze the dish. Scramble Flavor Booster: Stir ¼ - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes and/or up to 2 tsp. dried Italian herbs, such as basil, oregano, and/or thyme into the ziti before spreading it in the baking dish. Tip: Get the most out of your frozen vegetables by avoiding freezer burn. Once you’ve opened a bag of vegetables, take out what you need and put the remainder back in the freezer as quickly as possible. Also, make sure to press out as much air as possible and seal the bag well and/or place it inside a resealable plastic bag. Nutritional Information Per Serving (% based upon daily values): Calories 370, Total Fat: 12g, 18%; Saturated Fat: 4g, 19.5%; Cholesterol: 23mg, 7.5%; Sodium: 464mg, 19.5%; Total Carbohydrate: 50g, 17%; Dietary Fiber: 8g, 31%; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 18g Like this recipe? Check out The Scramble's family-friendly meal plans to see just how simple getting dinner on the table can be!
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