47. Freeze-Ahead Baked Ziti
This to-die-for classic Italian dish gets sneaky -- with vegetables that is. This recipe calls for two fresh zucchini, but you can also sneak in other vegetables such as muchrooms, carrots, etc. for all of those finicky eaters in your family.
1 pound of uncooked ziti, rigatoni or penne rigata
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
One 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes in purée
2 tsp Italian seasoning plus 1 tsp
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 egg whites
One 15-oz container part-skim Ricotta cheese
2/3 cup of part-skim Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
Prepare pasta according to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, warm the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, zucchini and garlic. Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes, making sure not to brown the garlic. Add in the tomatoes, 2 tsp Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer an additional five minutes. Add the pasta to the mixture and combine well.
Blend together the egg whites, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and Ricotta cheese until smooth. Add the Ricotta cheese to the pasta/sauce mixture in dollops and mix in slightly. (You don't want the Ricotta to disappear, but you do want it to be blended in.)
Line a 3-quart casserole dish with tin foil. Add in the pasta mixture and completely cover the pasta with foil. Allow to cool, label and freeze.
When frozen through, you can remove the foil wrapped pasta from the casserole dish and either wrap in plastic wrap or put in a ziploc bag to free up your dish for us.
Freeze for up to two months.
Last Minute Preparation:
Remove pasta from the freezer. Unwrap, place into original casserole dish, cover and allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 325. Cook for 30 minutes. Top with the Parmesan and Mozzerella and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and pasta is heated through.