If you were a fan of The Sopranos, you'll likely remember that Carmela Soprano made
baked ziti for every occasion: births, funerals (given husband Tony’s "profession," there were lots of funerals), birthdays and holidays. Baked ziti is an Italian-American comfort food layered with meatballs and cheese. Whenever Carmela appeared on camera holding a foil-covered casserole, I knew it was her ziti and I wanted some.
Ziti recipes abound online but most of them are meat, cheese and fat-laden. Here's a much lighter version I adapted from Cooking Light that's loaded with zucchini and yellow squash, less pasta and much less cheese.
At first I thought that there wasn't enough pasta in the recipe for 4 servings but it was just right -- a healthy balance of ziti and veggies with just enough mozzarella and ricotta to make it crave-worthy. Serve this with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and some fresh basil on top. Even your Italian friends will love it, especially those who want to have their pasta and eat it too!
4 oz. uncooked ziti
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow squash
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (2 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
Options: You can use penne or fusilli if you can't find ziti. You can also add about 1/2 cup of jarred pasta sauce to the mixture before baking. To make your ziti a bit richer, you can heavy up on the mozzarella and bump up the ricotta from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. If you’ve not counting WW Points or calories, go for it, remembering that moderation in all things, including cheese, is the best, most sustainable, option.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini and onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
Combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish that's been coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining mozzarella.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.
Serves 4 (Serving size: 1 1/2 cups)