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Baked Ziti Penne is a great hearty pasta dish that needs no accompaniment. Okay, maybe garlic bread.

Cook time: 10 minutes for marinara/ 45 minutes in the oven

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of baby bella mushrooms (half a 10 ounce container)
  • 1 zucchini chopped chopped (small pieces)
  • 1 large stalk of broccoli
  • 1/2 a white onion diced
  • 1 cups spinach or two handfuls
  • handful of grape tomatoes cut in halves or thirds
  • 1/2 lemon
  • fresh parsley, fresh basil, oregano, garlic powder, 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 jar marinara (I used fire roasted tomato and cabernet sauvignon flavored)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • some red wine of choice (I used cabernet sauvignon to emphasize the flavor in the sauce)
  • 1 pound of fresh mozzarella shredded with grater
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta (use skim milk ricotta if you want less fat)

What do I do first?:

1. Boil broccoli florets for 4 minutes. Drain and shock in cold ice water. Sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat (I used a wok) in Extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper.

2. After 2 minutes, chop the broccoli and add it too. Salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.

3. After 1 minute, add the onions and minced or pressed garlic. S and P. Add fresh chopped parsley.

4. After two minutes, add the mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

5. Add splash of red wine like cabernet sauvignon. Simmer with the marinara sauce. Add some tomato paste to enhance the tomato flavor. Finish with chopped basil. You can stack and roll the leaves. Then cut thin strips for a chiffonade. This would be a wonderful marinara sauce all by itself.

6. Boil penne or ziti (1 cup per person). This recipe will serve 6 people.  Strain well, mix with the sauce, and add the ricotta and 2/3 of the mozzarella. When checking for consistency, keep in mind that some sauce will evaporate and soak into the pasta. Flatten in a buttered casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

7. Conceal with mozzarella cheese and cover with foil. Cook for 20 more minutes. Remove the foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle with more basil. Finish uncovered for 15 minutes. If you want, you can also top with parmesan cheese or even use it in the filling.

Experiment with this dish. Try any vegetable you have on hand. If you have eggplant, throw it in. Instead of spending on extra pasta, use what you have on hand and splurge on better ingredients. Use leftover  mozzarella and ricotta for a lasagna or make home-made ravioli with ricotta and spinach. This dish could definitely be made ahead of time; you just finish it in the oven. Feel free to not include ingredients or add them. My final suggestion is to find someone to shred the  mozzarella cheese for you.

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