Tag Archive for 'pasta'

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Baked Ziti Gets Healthy Mid-week Makeover

With the cold weather moving in, it seemed like the perfect time to make some healthy comfort food. This dish turned out to be very popular with the little ones, veggies were well hidden and hardly noticeable (all were greedily eaten), and it was a snap to pull together.

Turkey Veggie Ziti


Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sugo di Pomodoro)
1 lb dried ziti pasta, cooked
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 medium-size yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, strings removed and diced
1 TBS Italian Seasoning (or 1 TBS of each: fresh parsley, oregano and basil finely chopped)
1 lb ground turkey meat
2 tsps kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
Parmesan Cheese, to taste, finely grated (optional)


Cook ziti according to package directions, but make sure to not overcook, as pasta will be baked in the oven before serving. Once drained, mix with a small amount of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking to itself while preparing the remainder of the meal. Set aside.

Prepare pasta sauce (recipe above), or if you are in a rush, you can use your favorite ‘stand-by’ sauce in a jar.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onion; saute until translucent, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and the herb seasoning. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add in the ground turkey meat and break into small pieces. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. When cooked, add in the cooked pasta and tomato sauce. Stir until well mixed. Using cooking spray, coat your 2.5 quart baking dish. (It is also fun to make individual servings and cooking the ziti in 4-6 large ramekins. Be aware that cooking time will be reduced as it will cook quicker in these smaller containers.) Fill baking dish, or ramekins, with pasta mixture and top generously with cheddar cheese.

Cook 30-40 minutes until cheese bubbles and is lightly browned. If using, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Serve immediately!

Time Saver Note: If you happen to make pasta often, make extra, coat the overage lightly with vegetable or olive oil and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days until you have the ingredients to make this dish.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio con Fritti Misti

Despite such cool weather in NorCal this year, which resulted in our garden being a bit behind schedule, it’s August and I am again nostalgically transported into the world of Italian Summer fare. While many jest that ‘the coldest winter they ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’ (Mark Twain) – it typically remains the case ONLY in San Francisco, and seldom in the other areas of the Bay Area. Typically, once one ventures 15 minutes by car to the North, South or East of San Francisco the weather is HOT. Note, I did say ‘typically’; albeit this year would be the exception. Finally, with a batch of summer veggies at the ready, I decided to get greasy and do a plate of pasta with some friti misti (mixed fried veggies). The key to these simple dishes is good olive oil.

You can eat this fried goodness on top of pasta, on a soft baguette or even on their own.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta with oil and garlic)
e Fritti Misti (and mixed fried veggies)

* note there are two ingredients lists for the two recipes provided*

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Ingredients

1 lb dried long pasta
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 TBS
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1-2 TBS minced fresh herbs such as parsley, fresh oregano or a mixture (optional)
Parmesan, freshly grated

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Directions

In a large-size pot add 1 TBS oil to water and bring to boil. Once boiling add in salt and then pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions, al dente and drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and heat just until the garlic turns golden. If using the red pepper flakes, add them. Set oil aside until pasta is drained. Place oil back on a medium-low flame and toss pasta, in the pan, with a light amount of salt until well coated. If the pasta seems dry add a bit of the of the pasta water to loosen it up. Add herbs and heat until warm. Serve immediately with a black pepper, and season with grated cheese.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish, or 8 if eaten with a heaping mound of pasta.

Fritti Misti Ingredients

2 zucchini, sliced length-wise 1/8 inch thick
3 yellow squash, sliced length-wise 1/8 inch thick
6 zucchini flowers
3 small Japanese Egg Plants, sliced length-wise 1/8 inch thick
parmesan cheese
olive oil
** paper towels**

Fritti Misti Directions

Wash, dry and cut zucchini, yellow squash and egg plant length-wise. In a pan, avoid a non-stick pan if possible for better browning results, add ½ inch of olive oil in your pan and bring to medium heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels so that you can transfer the fried veggies over and drain off some of the olive oil. Complete all of these veggies before frying the zucchini flowers, as you do not want to risk dirtying the oil.

To prepare the zucchini flowers, remove the stamen (or stem in the middle of the flower), wash well inside and outside. Pat dry with a paper towel. Whisk egg and lightly coat flowers. Dredge flowers in flour mixed with a dash of salt and pepper and pan fry until golden brown.

Beautiful Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini Flowers in frying pan.

To truly garner an Italian summer meal flair, make a nice antipasto plate. No directions necessary, there are no rules, just a mixture of nibbles and you are ready to feast.