Lasagna-style Baked Ziti

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m in a food rut, making the same things over and over again, so I’m making an effort to try new things; not just new recipes, but new ingredients that I’ve never eaten or cooked with before. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to pick one cookbook and only make recipes from that cookbook for the next couple of weeks. That way I can’t just go through and pick and choose the “safe” recipes, I actually have to try things that I would normally flip right past. This led me to choose a recipe with goat cheese in it, something I’ve liked in restaurant dishes, but not something I’ve ever bought and cooked with before. Well, that did it. I guess maybe it never occurred to me that you could buy goat cheese at a normal grocery store? I don’t know, but now that I know you can, it’s all I can do to keep from buying a package of goat cheese every time I go to the store and eating it whole.

I am completely addicted to goat cheese now and find myself dreaming of ways to incorporate it into other recipes. Which brings us to today’s recipe. I know from my giveaway question about comfort food a few weeks ago that a lot of you love macaroni and cheese. This recipe isn’t exactly mac ‘n cheese, but it definitely has that same level of warm, gooey, comfort food-ness to it. You know what else it has? THREE kinds of cheese! And instead of using boring ol’ ricotta cheese I substituted goat cheese instead. With ricotta cheese, this recipe is pretty good. With goat cheese, this is very possibly my favorite dish ever in the whole world. Brandon declared it the best lasagna-type dish I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot of versions of lasagna over the last few years). The goat cheese adds a unique but still subtle tanginess that ricotta just doesn’t have (I never even taste the ricotta in most lasagna, what’s the point of it being there?). Add some parmesan and mozzarella on top of that and you have a trifecta of cheesy goodness.

Other than the goat cheese, what I really love about this recipe is how simple it is. I love lasagna, but it’s so fussy! Boiling the noodles is always a pain since they’re so big and then you have do all the layers; it just takes forever. This has all the ingredients of a good lasagna: pasta, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, ground beef, cheese and even spinach (A vegetable! That makes it good for you, right?), but all you have to do is mix everything together and top it with more cheese and bake. It doesn’t even have to bake for that long, the whole recipe takes about 30-40 minutes from start to finish. If you’re looking for a quick and easy alternative to lasagna this is definitely it.

Lasagna-style Baked Ziti

Lasagna-style Baked Ziti

adapted from Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy, Delicious Meals

Dinner | Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 16 min | Total time: 31 min

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. uncooked ziti (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 (26 oz.) jar marinara sauce*
  • 1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
  • 4-6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled**
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella (whole-milk is best if you want it good and melt-y)

* I thought it could use more sauce (1/2 to 1 cup), so you may want to get another bottle of marinara sauce or you could just add some tomato sauce.

** I used the whole package of goat cheese that I had, which was 5 oz., but I saw other brands that were 4 or 6 oz. I really don’t think you can go wrong by using more goat cheese in this, so get as large a package as you can afford! If goat cheese isn’t your thing, you can use 1/2 cup ricotta cheese instead.

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain pasta and return it to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef, salt and pepper. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add spinach leaves to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, until they start to wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  5. In the skillet or a large bowl, mix together the pasta, marinara sauce, beef mixture, goat cheese, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan.
  6. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture in and sprinkle with the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 3-6 minutes more or until all the cheese melts.