This week I'm sharing with you a "Hawthorne girl" tradition- a dish that is always present during holidays and the dish that stands for the vegetarian substitute for Hank on any given Sunday at my Mom's. "Oh, we're having steak? Don't worry, we have a ziti in the oven."
Over the past eight years I've inched away from being vegan, Hank has remained vegetarian, and my Mom and sister have gone that route also, with all of them dabbling in long stints of veganism. So these days it's really just my Dad, brother-in-law, Grandma and myself who will eat any meat during dinner. Because of that my Mom always has a meat-free item available, and many times you can count on it being some variation of ziti. Luckily Henry loves it too, so it's been a quick all-in-one dinner idea for us that doesn't take long to prepare at all.
The best part about this dish is that it is completely open for interpretation, much like my quiche recipe- and it's VERY easy to make...and easy to hide veggies in it too, for your picky eaters.
What you'll need:
*I don't really use exact measurements when I cook a recipe from memory so hopefully this still makes sense.
1 box/bag of penne pasta
1 jar of tomato sauce
2 lb. container of ricotta cheese
veggies of your choice - I used frozen spinach, peppers, and broccoli
oregano/basil for seasoning
1. Preheat your over to 350. Boil your pasta in a large pot. While your pasta is cooking, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on the bottom of your ziti tray or pan. Add a nice dollop of tomato sauce on top and mix it up a little. This will be your bottom layer.
2. Cut up all veggies. You can add them to your ziti raw like we did, or sautee them beforehand with some olive oil. I prefer a little crunch so I just throw them in there raw. You can also add frozen veggies straight into the ziti, like I did with the frozen spinach.
3. Get your pasta off the stove, drain, and get ready to LAYER!
4. There isn't a wrong way to do this, as long as you make sure to have a bottom ricotta/sauce layer and at least two layers of noodles. First add a layer of noodles on top of the bottom cheese/sauce layer. Then add some more sauce, top with some veggies, and then some mozzarella cheese. Then add more noodles, some ricotta cheese and tomato sauce, more veggies, and mozzarella cheese again. If you have room and want to go for a third layer, do it! The more layers, the more delicious it is, but just be sure to end with a layer of mozzarella and sprinkle some basil and oregano on top.
5. Pop your layered beauty into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes at 350 degree, or until you see the insides beginning to bubble up. I love the cheese on the top to get a little brown, but if you're not into that sort of thing feel free to cover with tin foil for the first 30 minutes and remove it towards the end.
6. Enjoy! And on a side note, this ziti tastes even better heated up the next day! We actually make a big tray sometimes and enjoy it throughout the week.