March 13, 2006

Cheap Eats: Baked Ziti

Ziti casserole
Adapted from Hunt’s Tomato Sauce can by Skip
Serves 6 to 8
Active time: 30 min Start to Finish 45 min

As a half-Italian, I have to admit that this is the best ziti I’ve ever eaten. According to my records this ziti costs less than $1.50 per serving ($1.37, to be exact). It’s filling, tasty, and has pretty much all of the essential food groups (depending on where you put tomatoes). Serving it with a 2-vegetable salad (to ensure the veggie intake) only adds another $0.67.

  • 1 lb ground beef/turkey (see Cooks’ Note)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (or any old can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 16 oz penne pasta, cooked following instructions on box
  • ¾ cup water (reserved from boiled pasta; see cooks’ note)
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 12 oz ricotta cheese

Special Equipment: Nonstick cooking spray, 13x9x2 baking dish, preferably oven-safe glass.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook beef and chopped onions on a skillet, 8 minutes (or until crumbled and not pink). Drain fat from skillet.

Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and water and heat through (see Cooks’ Note).

Coat 13x9x2 baking dish with nonstick spray. Combine cooked pasta with meat/tomato mixture, ricotta cheese, and 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Stir carefully to prevent spillage. Top with remaining shredded cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Optional: if you like it when the cheese gets a little browned, turn oven temperature to broil and place casserole on the highest rack. Watch closely because broiling happens very quickly – within 2 minutes.

Cooks’ Note: I prefer using sweet Italian sausage because you don’t need to drain the fat and it tastes better.
The pasta water enhances the overall flavor of the dish.
Do not be concerned if the mixture looks watery.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

No comments: