I read somewhere that Baked Ziti is lasagna’s more relaxed cousin and I thought what a good description.
Now I know that my grand-kids love lasagna so I thought I would give this dish a whirl whilst changing just a couple of ingredients so that my gluten-intolerant husband could enjoy it as well. Instead of using Ziti macaroni, I used gluten-free pasta, used only a pinch of crushed chilli flakes (not too hot for the kids) and made my own marinara sauce with a couple of cartons of chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and a splash of wine. You could cheat and buy a jar from the supermarket if you wanted to.
1lb ziti (or gluten-free penne) pasta
Glug of olive oil
1lb extra-lean minced beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)
½ teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes (optional)
About 32oz marinara sauce
8oz mozzarella, grated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
Cook for a further minute before adding the minced beef. Cook, breaking the meat up, until it has browned all over – about 4 to 5 minutes.
Once the meat has browned, add the herbs and crushed chilli flakes if using. Cook for a minute before adding the sauce. Stir well and simmer for a minute or two.
Cook the pasta al dente, according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander and toss with a glug of oil to ensure it doesn’t stick together. Add a large spoonful of the meat mixture to the pasta and stir through.
Pour over the remaining tomato sauce mix, dot with the remaining ricotta cheese and sprinkle with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350°F for approximately 30 minutes until the cheese has melted, the top browned and the mixture heated through.
The pasta in this dish stays deliciously moist and the ‘heat’ can be adjusted by adding more or less crushed chilli flakes.
Recipe based on the one from SimplyRecipes.com
NB: All photographs used in this blog have been taken by me, and are of food I have prepared and served myself.