Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Well Fed Newlywed: Baked Ziti

Happy New Year! When I was younger, someone told me that eating noodles at the beginning of the year would bring you good luck. For some reason, I had that in my mind today, even though I noticed that "Hoppin' John" is the real New Year's Day food! (I've never even heard of Hoppin John before today, but it looks good- maybe a recipe soon- Meatless Mondays?)

Adam told me he'd like to enjoy Baked Ziti for New Year's, and we were preparing for a snowstorm, so we stopped by the store for a few ingredients. This is by far the easiest baked ziti I have ever made- and also the tastiest!

I also read something recently about "intuitive cooking", which is cooking with limited measuring, recipes, etc. It's about learning what foods taste good together and blending them to make your own dish. I had no idea my "throw this in, throw that in, oh that looks done" approach to cooking had a real name! Ha! I have included the amounts for the ingredients in this recipe, but I encourage you to increase/decrease according to your family's tastes. Without further adieu, I present to you:

Creamy Baked Ziti 
1 bag "Italian Trio" pasta (or penne/rotini)
1 jar pasta sauce
1 roll turkey sausage
1 package fat free cream cheese 
1 regular bag of mozzarella cheese (or shred a block, if you prefer!)
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese (see note)
Italian Spices, Salt/Pepper

Boil the pasta to al dente; drain.
Brown turkey sausage and set aside.
When noodles are done, add pasta sauce + cream cheese into saucepan. Melt cream cheese until smooth. Add in sausage + noodles, and parmesan cheese.

(I used a Parmesan Cheese I found at Wal-Mart today called Francesca and it is AMAZING. It was right next to the Kraft and it was only 20 cents more. I got the Parmesan + Garlic kind).
Using this parmesan cheese eliminated the need for any additional spices, but if you use regular parmesan, make sure to add in a couple of churns of pepper, salt, and an Italian seasoning mix.

Next, layer your pasta/sauce mixture into a pan. Add a layer of mozzarella cheese over this mixture, then repeat. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

YUM-O. This was so good! And somewhat healthy- turkey sausage, fat free cream cheese. You could even use lower fat mozzarella (but that's the one concession I just don't make for weight loss!)

This is the only photo I got of our baked ziti- after we had already dug in! As you can see, the sauce coats all of the noodles pretty well and bakes in for a yummy, cheesy, saucy dish!