What’s not to love about pasta, sauce, and cheese all baked together? Since we’re not fans of ricotta cheese, a simple white sauce called béchamel enhances the taste of the dish without making it overly creamy, while homemade marinara sauce with garden-grown herbs adds freshness and flavor.
STEP ONE – Preparations
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Lightly spray an 13×9-inch baking dish with canola spray.
- Get out a large pot and a colander.
- Get out small glass measuring cup and a small saucepan.
STEP TWO – Cook the Pasta
1 pound uncooked ziti pasta
- Fill the large pot with water, add a shake of salt, and bring to a boil.
- Add the ziti and cook for 1 less minute than directed.
- Drain in the colander, rinse briefly under cold water, and set aside in the baking dish.
STEP THREE – Make the Marinara Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ small peeled and minced onion
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic peeled and minced cloves
1 28-ounce can tomatoes or 8 large seeded and diced tomatoes
2 fresh chopped basil leaves
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
- In the medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and basil.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Add the vinegar and honey and stir to incorporate.
- Puree in the food processor or leave chunky.
STEP FOUR – Make the Béchamel
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In the small glass measuring cup, microwave the milk for 1 minute and set aside.
- In the small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- Once bubbling, whisk in the flour until incorporated.
- Slowly whisk in the heated milk, stirring continually until the sauce is smooth and thick.
- Season with the salt and nutmeg.
STEP FIVE – Assemble and Bake
- In the baking dish, combine the pasta with half the marinara sauce and the béchamel.
- Spread the remaining marinara sauce and the mozzarella cheese on top.
- Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes until lightly browned.
- Serve hot.
Recommended Serving Size: ⅙ of recipe
Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 protein, 1 veg, 1 fat