THE WASHINGTON POST – this recipe checks all the boxes for the kind of food I want to usher me into the new year. It’s healthful and comforting (yes, it’s possible to have both!) and it’s convenient – easy to pull together, make ahead and reheat.
It’s a better-for-you spin on a familiar favourite, baked ziti, made with whole-grain pasta (although regular pasta would be fine if you prefer it), packed with vegetables – sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes – and made cheesy and creamy with a more healthful than usual balance of part-skim ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan.
Baked until bubbly inside and melty and golden on top, it’s the kind of dish that’s like a cozy spot in the sun on a cold day.
This recipe makes eight to 10 servings, so it is an easy cook-once-eat-twice situation for most families.
When I’m just cooking for my husband and myself, rather than baking it all at once in a nine-by-13-inch pan, I divide the batch into two eight-by-eight-inch baking dishes and place one, tightly covered, in the freezer to double the dinner-at-the-ready payoff.
It’s an easy win to start 2022.
THREE CHEESE PASTA AND VEGETABLE BAKE
Active time: 35 mins | Total time: 1 hour 15 mins
Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to four days, or cover tightly and freeze for up to three months.
– One pound whole grain or regular penne pasta, or other tube shaped pasta
– Two tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the pan
– One pound baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
– Six cloves garlic, thinly sliced
– One bag frozen broccoli, defrosted (may substitute with five cups blanched fresh chopped broccoli)
– Seven sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, drained and thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
– One teaspoon dried basil
– 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– One container part-skim ricotta cheese
– Four cups marinara sauce
– One cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
– Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for two minutes less than suggested in the package directions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Brush a nine-by-13-inch ovenproof dish with oil.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering.
Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid evaporates and they begin to brown, about eight minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, two minutes more.
Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Add the vegetables to the drained pasta in the pot, along with the ricotta and marinara, and stir to combine well.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and evenly spread it out.
Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and cover the dish loosely with foil.
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.