Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spinach Mushroom Baked Ziti

When I originally scheduled this dish, it was supposed to be for over a week ago, and it was supposed to be Lasagna.  I was going to scrap the plan altogether and have Hey, Babe pick up something on the way home.  Lasagna was going to be a little too painstaking to prepare after dealing with two sick kids all day, one of whom did not want to be put down.  Just around the time I needed to get dinner started or commit to ordering take out, my sniffly Storm Sprite got happy and allowed me to put her down.

I decided I'd start the prep and get as much done as I could, if it didn't come together in time we could still order take out and finish making it the next night.  Lasagna is a bit more elaborate to put together since making each of those layers takes time (and two hands) so I decided that it was going to be a Baked Ziti instead.  All the same components with none of the fussy layers.

It came together beautifully.  I always love a lasagna with spinach in it, and it is just as good in ziti.  The sauteed mushrooms add a bit of solidity to the Ziti, almost as if I had added meat.  I hate mushy, overcooked noodles in my pasta dishes, so I made sure to under cook my noodles by about 2 minutes from the lowest called for time.  I knew they would keep cooking in the oven and didn't want a big pile of soggy noodles to brave through.  They came out perfectly.  I always use whole wheat noodles which take slightly longer to cook and are a a bit more forgiving (and healthier!).  If you are using regular noodles, you may want to under cook them by another minute or so.  If you have the time and want to put forth the effort, I am sure this would be a delicious lasagna but I really enjoyed it as a Baked Ziti.

Spinach Mushroom Baked Ziti
1 lb ziti noodles (I used whole wheat)
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
16 oz frozen spinach thawed and patted dry
1 cup mushrooms sliced
16 oz whipped cottage cheese or ricotta cheese 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups spaghetti sauce 
2 cups mozzarella cheese 

 1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil noodles for about 2-3 minutes less then the directions on the box call for, until flexible and somewhat chewable. You don't want to cook them completely. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking process.

2. Saute onion and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in spinach and mushrooms. Add cottage/ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Stir until hot.

3. Spread 1/2 cup sauce onto the bottom of 13x9 pan. Mix remainder of sauce with the ziti noodles.  Pour about half of the noodles and sauce into the prepared pan.  Spread all of the cheese and veggie mixture over the noodles.  Top with remaining noodles and sauce.  Very carefully use a spatula to disturb the layers, mixing it up slightly.  You don't want it completely mixed up, just slightly marbled.

4. Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover in foil. Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.  If you like a browned top, take the foil off for the last 10 minutes or so of baking.

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