Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Three Cheese Baked Ziti with Spinach

This is one of my husband's favorite dishes. I always make it on a Friday so him and the little one can slowly house it over the weekend while I'm at work. And of course, it's another vehicle for spinach. It couldn't be easier, and I nearly always have the ingredients on hand. There is a lot of cheese in this, so instead of grabbing a jarred pasta sauce, which is the easiest route, I tend to go for unsalted diced tomatoes from a can to make a quick sauce. It only tacks on a few more minutes, but it is definitely worth it for the flavor you end up with. 

You can also get this pasta dish assembled ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a few days before you bake it off. Need to freeze it for up to 3 months? No problem. Ensure it's tightly wrapped with plastic wrap, then foil, and place in the deep chill. Just thaw it in the fridge at least 1 day in advance before baking @ 350* for ~90 minutes, till the cheese starts to turn golden and the sauce is bubbling up on the sides.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb ziti, cooked a few minutes
   shy of al dente
1 28 oz can + 1 14 oz can unsalted
   diced tomatoes, pref organic
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of salt and pepper
1 1 lb bag frozen chopped 
   spinach, pref organic
~6 ounces soft goat cheese
~8 ounces fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350*. Set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, set a large (12") non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp or so of olive oil. Add the onion and saute till translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the frozen spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 more minutes. Blitz the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and marjoram in a food processor and add to the spinach. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta 3 minutes shy of al dente per brand's instructions. Drain well, and place back in pot. Pour over the spinach and tomato sauce. Crumble in the goat cheese and give only a couple of stirs. Having a few pieces of whole soft goat cheese in here is lovely- you don't want it completely integrated. 

Pour the pasta into your favorite 9 x 13ish casserole dish that has been lightly spritzed with olive or canola oil. Shred the mozzarella with your hands and evenly top the pasta with it. Sprinkle with Parmasan. Bake on the center rack of your oven for about 30 - 45 minutes, or till mozzarella is completely melted and the Parm has started to brown. Allow casserole to sit for 5 - 10 minutes before serving. 


16 comments:

  1. Hi, I was wondering if I'm supposed to thaw the spinach and drain the liquid before adding it to the sauteed onions, or just add the spinach frozen?

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    1. No thawing necessary, which is 1 of the reasons why this dish is quick enough to make on a weeknight. If you're in a big hurry, you can 1/2 the amount of spinach & it'll cook up even faster. Be sure to use the bagged chopped frozen spinach (preferably organic), as I've found it doesn't have nearly as much moisture as the boxed.

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  2. Thanks so much for this recipe, we made it for dinner a couple of nights ago. It was so delicious! Our store was out of frozen spinach, so I used fresh baby spinach by only cooking it at the last minute so it was just wilted. I also used canned baby roma tomatoes and left it a little chunky. We loved it! Thanks again! :)

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Your adaptations sound great. It's definitely a crowd pleasing dinner!

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  4. Wow! looks amazing!
    Do you think it's ok if I make it with few types of low fat cheese?

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    1. Thanks! I've never used low fat cheese in this dish myself, but if you're accustomed to using them in your cooking I'd say do it. Personally, I'd sub in some low fat ricotta instead of the chevre, completely omit the mozzarella (low fat mozz isn't very tasty) and sparingly use Parm for the top.

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  5. Looks great! Quick question though - Is the step with the food processor necessary? Couldn't you just stir the spices, garlic and tomatoes together before adding them to the spinach?

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    1. If you don't mind a chunky sauce, you definitely do not have to use a food processor. I'd just add a bit of water once all the ingredients are combined to ensure there is enough moisture to prevent it from drying out in the oven. Swishing 1/4 of water in the empty can(s) of tomatoes would work.

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  6. So you don't mix the cheese into the pasta then spread into the casserole dish, correct? I've watched a couple videos and most people integrate all the cheeses then fill the cassarole dish and then top it off with mozzarella and Parmesan. But for your recipe, you only mix the pasta with the tomato sauce (garlic, spinach, oregano) with goat cheese. no cheese is integrated in the pasta except for the goat cheese only AFTER when you fill the casserole dish, do you add the mozzarella and Parmesan last? Sorry for questions, I just wanted to make sure I'm doing it correctly! Thank you!

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  7. Correct... Add sauce to cooked pasta, stir. Crumble in goat cheese, stir once - goat cheese doesn't need to be fully integrated/melted in. Transfer to casserole dish. Top with mozz and parm.

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  8. Can diced chicken or sausage be added to this recipe? My husband is a MEAT lover!

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    1. Without a doubt! I'm a firm believer in that nearly all recipes are truly guidelines, and usually open to many tweaks. I've made this with par cooked meatballs gently nestled into the pasta, then baked off. Had good reviews from that one!

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  9. This looks like a large dish, but how many servings would you say this is? Debating doubling my recipe. Thanks.

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    1. It generously feeds 4 with leftovers; would be enough for 6 as well. If you have 8 or more, I would either double it or serve some sides along with it.

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  10. Replies
    1. For sure. The second comment down by Jamieanne mentions her technique for using fresh spinach in lieu of frozen, and it sounded like it worked great.

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