Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love Will Keep You Warm, and So Will This Easy, Vegetarian "No Boil" Baked Ziti

I know you're tired of hearing about it, but it's cold outside. Last night in Lake Charles, it was 29 degrees outside, and not counting a frozen pizza, my cupboards were basically bare. Brendan was teaching a leisure learning fiction class, and I wanted to put together a nice surprise for him to thank him for all the sweet things he does for me. I know it's a cliche to say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but it's also a saying that I find proves true, so I Google vegetarian recipes looking for something easy, delicious, and with limited ingredients. I found a version of this baked Ziti on my staple website for recipes, but I changed it up to make it even more delicious, and I'm sharing my recipe here. The best part about this is that it requires limited ingredients, making it pretty cost effective. I made it home from the grocery store with only four bags. I will include a grocery list here. The woman at the checkout informed me that my lips were purple from the cold, but nothing says I love you like a trek to Albertson's in 29 degrees, right? The other great thing about this recipe is you can eat leftovers for days. It makes about 12 servings. So without further ado, here it is. You will need:
  • 1 yellow onion, several cloves of fresh garlic 
  • 1 approx. 15oz box Ziti pasta 
  • 1 regular size (26oz) jar of to tomato sauce-I used Ragu Mama's Special Garden 
  • 1 jar of Salsa (I used Pace medium spice chunky)
  • 1 15oz container of Ricotta cheese (I used non-fat)
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella and 1 bag of shredded Parmesan
  • water, olive oil, coarse ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice the yellow onion and mince the cloves of garlic. Cook on medium heat in olive oil in a skillet with a tablespoon of coarse black pepper. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the onions and garlic with the jar of pasta sauce, 1/2 the jar of salsa, the entire container of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1 and 1/2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper, a few more shakes of black pepper, and most of your unboiled box of Ziti. Stir it all around!
  4. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 13X9-inch baking dish (a large baking dish), cover with foil, and bake for 55 minutes. 
  5. Remove from oven, remove foil, top with mozzarella and Parmesan and bake another 5 minutes without the foil. 
  6. Let it sit a few minutes before serving and then dig in! 
Prep and cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Delicious Factor: 4.5/5 stars and tastes great leftover too. Brendan says it reminds him of a favorite meal from childhood, and I loved the cheesy texture and the spices from the salsa and crushed red pepper. Honestly though, it would have been worth it just to see Brendan's face when he realized we weren't eating frozen pizza for dinner. I served this with Merlot, but while at the store, I also bought a 6-pack of one of his favorite beers, which we're having tonight...with frozen pizza. Hey, I can't always be Wonder Woman.

I'm including a picture here. I also served this with my very own Stacy's Sweet Strawberry Salad (like that alliteration? Yeah, I've taken poetry classes), my staple to bring to dinner parties. I will share that recipe, but I feel that warrants a blog post all it's own, and right now, I have to promise great things in order to increase my readership.

Anyway, Brendan and I received another wonderful surprise. A "thesis semester" gift basket from his parents from Zingerman's. This huge package arrived at our door, it was a wooden crate filled with all sorts of delicious goodies. The best part of all, all of it minus the salami, is vegetarian! I can't wait to try the chocolate sourdough bread, the natural peanut butter and honey, the Vermont cheese, the brownies, the coffee cake, and the list goes on and on! I know that I'm already obsessed with the only two things I've tried yet, these vegetarian/vegan fruit gummies and these delicious macaroons.  I'm including a picture of what our gift looked like, in case anyone is thinking of sending a thoughtful present to someone for any reason (Valentines, birthday, whatever), this is a perfect idea. As for my cupboards, they are no longer bare!

 Here's to love keeping you warm!

<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Oh, and I almost forgot. Zoe wants me to tell you that her and Lola love the packaging. This huge box is their new favorite thing.

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