Lust & Complex Carbs: Baked Ziti
I’m a pasta chick at heart. Actually, there isn’t anything heartfelt about the relationship — it’s more carnal — a simple matter of an aching complex carb type of lust. When the pasta cravings begin, it doesn’t matter what anyone in any magazine article or web post says about carbs. I know they’re just good brain food. The carbs — not the writers. How many times have you had a meal with pasta and been hungry later, or had cravings of any kind? Right. Zero. Who cares if you can get up and move around when you’re done eating. That’s what I call satisfaction. So for those of you who have a problem similar to mine, this recipe is for you. Or, if you don’t have a problem, try it anyway, and limit your portion to a half cup. Right. And pigs fly.
Ziti is one of my favorite pastas because it is meaty and chewy. No stringy pieces here to slap against your face as you slurp them into your mouth. Lately, I had been thinking about baking ziti, and have seen many recipes here and there. Of course, when I want to actually make baked ziti, can I find one? No. That would require forethought and organization. If I tear out a recipe, I usually lose it. I don’t actually have a file or drawer that I keep them in anymore. I know. Horrors! They’re sort of shoved into the pages of my cookbooks. No. I usually cannot find them when I need them. If you have a system that can save me from myself, please do not hesitate to smack me upside the head with one. I will gladly take it on and become more organized about the whole matter.
Ahem…Ziti. Yes. So of course, I can depend on Epicurious or Food Network to get the job done. Plus, I can usually find two or three recipes on similar items, and they sort of morph together into something I may like. My search to satisfy my carb craving landed me with “Baked Ziti with Spinach and Tomatoes.” Of course, I couldn’t just settle for the exact recipe, so mine is an adaptation.
Oh — And I’m thinking this one’s a bit leaner. Not a whole lot of gooey cheese, and lean turkey sausage. Not too bad. I know. Better without the sausage. Maybe next time.
1 pkg.(5-6 links) mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
3 very large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1-28 oz. can Progresso whole roma tomatoes with basil
1/4 purchased basil pesto (Classico)
5 oz. well-drained Roasted Pepper Brushetta Topping (Delallo)
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 box ziti, cooked al dente*
8 c. ready-to-use baby spinach and arugula leaves
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 oz.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large casserole (at least 13″ x 9″) with cooking spray and set aside.
- Put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta. Add 1 tsp. salt to the water. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and cover, allowing it to come to the boil again. When it does, remove it from the heat, give it a good stir, replace the lid and keep covered for 10 minutes. Test for al dente texture. Drain all but a bit of water in the bottom of the pan to keep the pasta warm and unsticky.
- Heat a large saucepan over med-hi heat. Add sausage, onion and garlic, breaking up the sausage pieces as the mixture cooks through.
- Add the tomatoes with juices and break up into smaller pieces being careful not to cause the tomatoes to squirt out of the pan and onto you!
- Simmer until the sauce thickens a bit, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the pesto and the roasted peppers. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- In a very large mixing bowl or kettle, combine drained pasta, spinach & arugula, mozzarella and 1/3 c. Parmesan and stir.
- Add hot tomato sausage mixture to the pasta mixture and combine until greens are nicely wilted.
- Mound mixture to the casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over the top.
- Bake uncovered until the sauce bubbles and cheese melts — about 30 minutes.
This casserole is even better the next day. If I made it again, I’d layer the cheese and the mixture. I’m not sure how much of a difference it would make since it isn’t supposed to be lasagna, but it’s worth a try just to see how it turns out. Mushrooms may be a great addition as well, or if you are not a carnivore, use mushrooms as a meat replacement using this recipe.