Pasta and vegetable baking with three cheeses is comforting, better for you and easy to make

Pasta and vegetable baking with three cheeses is comforting, better for you and easy to make

This recipe marks all the boxes for the kind of food I want to bring into the new year. It’s healthy and comforting (yes, it’s possible to have both!) And it’s convenient – easy to pull together, fast forward and reheat.

It’s a better spin on a well-known favorite, baked ziti, made with wholemeal pasta (though plain pasta would be fine if you prefer), packed with vegetables – sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes – and made cheesy and creamy with a more healthy than usual balance between frothy ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.

Baked until it is bubbling inside and melted and golden on top, it is the kind of dish that is like a cozy place in the sun on a cold winter day.

This recipe provides 8 to 10 servings, making it an easy cooking-once-eat-twice situation for most families. When I’re just cooking for my husband and myself, instead of baking it all at once in a 9 x 13-inch pan, I divide the portion into two 8-x-8-inch baking tins and place one tightly. covered, in the freezer to double the yield to dinner-at-ready.

It’s an easy victory to get 2022 started.

Pasta and vegetable baking with three cheeses

1 pound wholemeal or plain pen paste or other tubular paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the pan

1 pound baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced

6 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices

1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen broccoli, thawed (can replace with 5 cups blanched fresh chopped broccoli)

7 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, drained and cut into thin slices (approx. ⅓ cup)

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Fint teaspoon fine sea salt

Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (16 ounce) container of partially skimmed ricotta cheese

4 cups marinara sauce (homemade or bought in the store)

1 cup (4 ounces) grated partially skimmed mozzarella cheese

¼ cup (½ ounce) grated parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh flat parsley, for serving (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than instructed in the package instructions. Drain and return the pasta to the pan.

Meanwhile, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Brush a 9 x 13 inch ovenproof dish with oil.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shiny. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid evaporates and they begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, 2 minutes more. Add broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and stir together.

Add the vegetables to the drained pasta in the pan along with the ricotta and marinara, and stir well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared bowl and distribute it evenly. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and cover the dish loosely with foil.

Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Storage notes: Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or cover tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ellie Krieger is a cookbook author and registered nutritionist.

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