Ok, so, spoiler alert: this isn’t a recipe for baked ziti.
But it will definitely remind you of baked ziti, and you can even use ziti pasta instead of penne and then it will really remind you of baked ziti!
In case you haven’t noticed by the theme here, I was on a mission to figure out a way to make a guilt-free version of that cheesy, tomatoey goodness that a traditional ziti recipe brings.
I came across this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis a few weeks ago and was inspired. Her recipe is called “Pasta alla Formiana,” which, if you don’t speak Italian, translates loosely into “pasta with a crazy amount of tomatoes.”
I decided to add a few twists of my own: chopped zucchini (I love squashes in pasta dishes), whole wheat penne, and a ton of spices to enhance the flavor of all the veggies.
The husband was open to trying this dish, but he was scared of the sliced tomatoes on top of the pasta. I thought they looked pretty, so I decided that once he tried them he would like them 🙂
I was right! He was still wary of the sliced tomatoes when dinner was ready, but once he took a bite he was pretty happy.
- Olive Oil Cooking spray
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with juice and italian spices
- 3/4 to 1 cup veggie broth
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne or other small pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano + 1 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt + a few pinches to taste (added to zucchini while cooking)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 5 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 zucchini, diced
- 1/4-1/3 cup grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese
Step 1: Preheat oven to 450°. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. In food processor, blend crushed tomatoes and juice, broth, and garlic.
Step 2: Pour into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in uncooked pasta, 1 tsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Step 3: Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, salt to taste, crushed red pepper and 1 tsp oregano. Stir to combine and cook through (about 5 minutes).
Step 4: Slice your tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Step 5: Line bottom and sides of the baking dish with one-half to two-thirds of the tomato slices.
Step 6: Pour in pasta mixture.
Step 7: Add zucchini mixture over the pasta.
Step 8: Arrange remaining tomatoes on top. Drizzle with remaining olive oil (about 1-2 tsp).
Step 9: Bake 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are slightly crispy and pasta is cooked.
Step 10: As soon as you pull the pasta out of the oven, sprinkle the top with the parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Let the cheese melt, and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
The heat of the pasta makes the cheese melt automatically, but you can also put it under the broiler for about 30 seconds and the cheese will be melted perfectly.
And while there’s no cheese in between the layers of this dish, the amount on top is perfect to give a great creamy consistency to the pasta.
It was enough cheesy goodness to satisfy the husband!
You can also mix this up and add in whatever veggies are your favorite (zucchini just happens to be one of mine). The crushed red pepper will make just about any veggie taste great in this dish.
And of course, you can enjoy it completely guilt-free, without feeling like you’re giving anything up! Next time I’m definitely going to use whole wheat ziti pasta instead of the penne, I think it will be delicious.