VEGGIE BAKED ZITI

I am going to get this out before moving on - I am almost certain, that this should be categorized as comfort food. However, it is pretty delicious and I guess no that unhealthy. I mean, you are making your own alfredo AND in this case it is a veggie sauce...so not that bad, right?

However, this is a great go-to dish when, in our case, you have some left-over, really tasty spaghetti sauce in the fridge. If you like cheese, you will like this version. If you are looking for something a little less rich, feel free to cut the Alfredo Sauce in half.

Transient

Ingredients:

For Alfredo (feel free to cut this in half, this is A LOT of alfredo and should be used with 1 lb pasta):

1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese (plus more for the top) 3 tablespoons butter

3 loosely packed tablespoons flour

1  cup milk (in our case, whole milk - yeeks!)

dash of ground nutmeg salt/pepper to taste The Rest:

12 ounces spaghetti sauce (the thicker, the better) - we used Local Folk's Foods Veggie Sauce

8 oz shells or ziti noodles (we choose whole-wheat, adds a nutty flavor)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook noodles, but be sure to undercook by a couple minutes. This will prevent them from becoming to soppy after the baking process. During, or after (in the same saucepan, hate washing dishes + small galley kitchen = pan consolidation) in a saucepan, melt butter on medium-low heat. Once melted, slowly add flour while stirring. This is a delicate process, lower heat if it starts to burn. Add milk about a 1/4 cup at a time, stirring or whisking between pours. The milk will ball up after the first couple pours, continuing adding and whisking. You should end up with a nice smooth, custardy texture. Then add Parmesan and stir until fully incorporated.

Add the noodles to the alfredo. To create the ziti, I used a bread loaf pan - which I must admit, was not my idea. It stemmed from the Eatons making us frozen lasagne meals in preparation for Soren's birth - and then Rick used our loaf pans to make TWO separate zitis instead of one HUGE one. They are all geniuses. I digress - Pour half of the noodle mixture into the pan. Then spread marinara/spaghetti sauce on top. Pour other half of noodle mixture and finish with remaining spaghetti/marinara sauce. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan (and for me - a few breadcrumbs for extra crunch!). Bake for 20-30 minutes. Depending on how much crunch you like depends on how long you cook. I go for the full 30!

Serve hot and enjoy!

I would be remiss not to mention my little helper munching on strawberries. Stirring and straining imaginary pasta - his cuteness makes the dish that much better! 

Transient

*For a simple veggie spaghetti filler here is Mark Bittman's Ziti Tomato sauce, Rick loves this one and is quite good at making it:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound mushrooms (I LOVE mushrooms, our sauce was a mushroom base as well!)

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon garlic

1 28oz can tomatoes

(now, this will make enough for two loaf pans, or in our case = one loaf pan ziti + 15 pizza empanadas....)

Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until they soften, release their water, and then begin to dry again. About 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until veggies soften - about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so mixture bubbles gently. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Simple - but tasty!