Thursday, November 26, 2009

Quick and Dirty

When I first started to really get into cooking and becoming a "foodie", I tended to stay away from recipes with the words "quick" or "easy". I've always been the type to enjoy a challenge, and these meals just didn't seem to be worth taking the time to try. Call me a snob, but that's just the way I felt.

However, this resulted in certain "extremes" when cooking weeknight dinners. I'd go through a phase where it was no problem to get home from work and whip up some homemade pasta with bolognese sauce or pot pies with crust made from scratch. And then there will be a few busy weeks where dinner consisted almost entirely on variations of Kraft Dinner or soup and garlic bread. It's not exactly a balanced diet.

Unfortunately things have been pretty hectic lately and I've been in the latter group for far too long. So when I saw this "Easy Weeknight Dinner" recipe for Lasagna-style Baked Ziti it seemed like a good idea. And you know what? It's not exactly pretty but it was SO good and what do you know...tasted like lasagna! But for much less time and effort. And all the spinach in the recipe made it seem much lighter and healthier than all the cheese might suggest (don't worry I am under no illusions of this actually being all that healthy). Definitely worth trying out and making again!

Lasagna-style Baked Rotini (I know, it doesn't quite have the same ring as Ziti but it's all I had)
Adapted from Real Simple, via TheKitchn

12 oz. rotini (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 pound lean ground beef
salt and pepper
1 jar tomato or pasta sauce
1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beef, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until it’s no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Toss the pasta with the meat mixture, tomato sauce, spinach, ricotta, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Don't worry if it seems like there's way too spinach, it will start to wilt quickly and shrink up. You can add it in batches if you're not convinced.

4. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 4 large ramekins. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and bake until the cheese melts, 12 to 15 minutes.

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