I had a cooking show on the TV in the background, as I often do while working on the pages of Homestead.org.  A sweet, white-aproned, Italian grandma was making her famous baked ziti.  While it sounded pretty amazing, I couldn’t help but notice the pools of bright orange grease from the Italian sausage and ground beef settled into mounds of cheese.  I was inspired to create a baked ziti recipe that had all the savory goodness of her version, without all the artery-clogging side-effects.  This recipe is basically vegetarian, but I, a proud carnivore, promise you won’t miss the meat.

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 oz. uncooked ziti (about 2 cups)

3 T. olive oil

3 c. yellow squash and zucchini, chopped

1 c. chopped onion

6-8 button or baby portabella mushrooms, chopped (about 2 cups)

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

3 T. chopped fresh basil

2 t. chopped fresh oregano

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2- c. part-skim ricotta cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 c. marinara sauce

Salt and pepper

Cooking spray

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Once the water is boiling, cook the ziti according to the package directions.  Be sure to stir it often, or you’ll end up with a solid blob of noodles.

While the pasta is cooking (did you set your timer?), heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté for a couple of minutes and then add the mushrooms.  Sauté them until they are all lightly browning and the mushrooms have begun to lose their moisture.  Then add the zucchini and yellow squash.  Sauté another 5 minutes or so until the squashes are slightly wilted and browning.

Next, in a large bowl, combine the egg, ricotta, ½ c. of the mozzarella, and herbs.

When the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it with cold water for 1 minute.  Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and combine.  Next, add your veggies and mix them into the cheesy pasta.

Then, spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and spoon in the pasta mixture.  Cover with marinara sauce and the remaining mozzarella.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is browning and bubbly.


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