Sunday, November 14, 2010

Four Cheese Baked Penne

Take a moment, read my story, give a little to go a long way in the life of a child. As mentioned in my post from Monday evening, this will be the start of every post through Tuesday, November 16!

Baked Ziti always held a special place in my heart; not only was it my first "specialty" meal to make for company but it was Mr. Max and I's first dinner to make together - yes, aww how sweet, I know.

Let's take a trip down Memory Lane to June 2008. I remember we had just played a kickball game and decided to grab some dinner then meet our friends at a bar up the street with karaoke - I never turned down karaoke. Alas, this night I did, as we went to the grocery store and wandered around until we decided to make baked ziti. Back then it was simply combining just a few store-bought ingredients and bake them: pasta, Ragu, Italian Blend cheese, then some Italian seasoning sprinkled over top. Don't get me wrong, this tasted amazing, we've enjoyed it thoroughly. We thought we were really advanced by adding our own garlic, basil and oregano to the sauce and then over top the cheese, how innovative. We sat there ignoring our friends texts to meet them at the bar, instead we watched the Boston Celtics play the LA Lakers in the NBA finals and enjoyed our Thursday night in with our Baked Ziti.

Now flash forward to present day. I came across Elie Kreiger's Healthy Living recipe for Four Cheese Baked Penne, where you make your own homemade tomato sauce and combine with four fresh cheeses and herbs. Here is a matured version of this classic Italian dish and it did not disappoint!

Grocery List:
- Whole Grain Penne
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves, garlic
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper
- 1 tbsp. fresh basil
- 3 tbsp. fresh parsley
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese (low fat/part skim)
- 3/4 cup cottage cheese (low fat/part skim)
- 1 cup mozzarella (skim)
- Parmesan

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, then boil your penne pasta in water until al dente. Once they are just barely cooked, still a little firm, drain and set aside.

Conjure everyone's favorite kitchen aromas by heating canola oil in a small skillet and add the onion, next the garlic. In a pot, add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, fresh basil and 2 tbsp. of the fresh parsley and a few shakes of roasted red pepper flakes. Next add the onions and stir together on medium-high heat. Let the sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella and additional 1 tbsp. of fresh parsley.

Add the noodles in with the sauce and stir well. Next, add the cheese mixture into the noodles and sauce, combining well.

Transfer the pasta into a baking dish then cover in the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil.

Pop it in the oven and cook in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes. My instructions said 30 but I felt that was a little too long.

Max Man and I loved this rendition of our new baked ziti, or in more sophisticated terms, our four cheese baked penne. It was gooey, cheesy, melty, saucy.... this comes highly recommended!

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