Literally one of the only ways I can get my family to eat vegetables without complaint is in a pasta dish. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 4-8 vegetables that can be easily added to a pasta dish without distracting from the flavor. I am also not afraid to tell you that sometimes I will blend the vegetables into the spaghetti sauce to avoid complaints. It is almost too warm to be baking, but if you make the ziti in a smaller container and freeze it as suggested in the extra tips then you can have a dinner for a day you don’t feel like cooking and you can cook it in the toaster oven on a hot day! Enjoy!
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces italian sausage
16 ounces ziti or your favorite pasta
2 jars of marinara
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 green or red bell pepper
1 medium zucchini
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup black olives
1 cup cherry tomato halves
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3. When the water starts to boil, add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set pasta aside.
4. While the water is boiling, season sausage and ground beef with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning and cook in a large pan on medium heat until no longer pink. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
5. Clean and slice bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, and zuchinni into small bite sized pieces.
6. Wipe out the meat pan and add sliced veggies and a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Cook on a medium heat about 3-5 minutes until they begin to soften.
7. Add sliced olives and tomatoes to the pan and cook for about a minute or two.
8. Add one jar of marinara to the veggie pan. And stir. Allow the marinara a couple of minutes to heat up. Add in the ricotta cheese and stir to incorporate.
9. Add the meat to the sauce pot and the remaining jar of sauce. Cook about five minutes. Finally, add the pasta in to the pot. Stir up until everything is incorporated.
10. Pour pasta into a large casserole pan (at least 9x13) and top with mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the top.
11. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly with golden brown cheese. Serve with a side salad and garlic bread.
1. If you have a small family, divide the baked ziti into two 8x8 pans. Cook one and put the other in the fridge. Once the extra ziti has cooled, it can go into the freezer to be used at a different date.
2. If you like the idea of the extra veggies, but your family won’t eat them, consider blending the cooked veggies with the marinara after step #7. Then pour back into the pan and keep cooking!