Baked Ziti with Beef & Vegetables
Make our baked ziti for dinner tonight or freeze for later. This meal is complete with veggies, pasta and beef in a yummy tomato sauce topped with cheese.
Baked Ziti involves no layering or handling hot noodles. Just sauté the beef and veggies, add the pasta and your favorite sauce, a few other ingredients, and you are good to go.
It takes less than an hour to prepare, and depending on the size of your family, will provide several quick meals in the future.
And, the beauty of this dish is the kids don’t know they are eating their vegetables!
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- 1 lb. package whole wheat Ziti or Penne, cooked and drained
- 2 lbs. 90 percent lean ground beef from sirloin, sautéed until browned and drained
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, diced (optional if onion is used in pasta or marinara sauce)
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups of your favorite pasta or marinara sauce (see our easy marinara sauce recipe below)
- 1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (OR a combination of dried oregano flakes, dried basil flakes and dried thyme leaves).
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups fresh, baby spinach
- 2 cups (8 ounces) 2 % shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
- 1 teaspoon paprika, optional
- Cook pasta and sauté ground beef, drain, and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Heat large, 4-quart pot to medium high. Add the olive oil, onion, celery and carrots. Sauté vegetables about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, just until they begin to brown. Add the minced garlic and sauté another minute.
- Add pasta sauce, beef broth, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in the fresh spinach and simmer about 5 minutes until spinach is wilted.
- Pour mixture into one 13x9 baking dish, or two 8x8 baking dishes or smaller serving size dishes, depending on family size, that have been lightly coated with cooking spray.
- Top with cheese and sprinkle with fresh parsley and paprika, if desired. (At this point, casseroles can be refrigerated or frozen to bake later.)
- To bake: If baking immediately while mixture is still warm, bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. For refrigerated or thawed casserole, bake for 45 minutes to one hour, uncovered, or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.
Makes 10 cups.
Nutritional Information: Per one cup serving: 427 calories; 17.2g total fat (6.4g saturated, 0.3g polyunsaturated, 2.0g monounsaturated); 311.0mg sodium; 72.0mg cholesterol; 34.3g carbohydrate; 1.3g fiber; 1.5g sugars; 33.0g protein; 105.2mg potassium.
Easy Marinara Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28-ounce can plum tomatoes with juices pulsed a few times in blender. (Don’t puree, you want to see bits of tomato in the sauce.)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- Heat 2-quart saucepan to medium. Add onion, salt, pepper and oregano and sauté slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent, but not browned.
- Add garlic and sauté another minute. Careful not to brown or burn garlic!
- Stir in plum tomatoes, water and sugar. Turn stove to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Cover saucepan with lid ajar to allow steam to escape. Stir occasionally.
- Stir in fresh basil leaves and remove from heat. Use immediately over pasta or in lasagna or cool and refrigerate to use later.