The Make-Ahead Dinner: Baked Ziti

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Sometimes you have one of those days when you know you’ll be running from one place to another like in a one-woman relay race, and on top of that – you’re having company for supper! After a crazy and exhausting day you know you won’t have the time, nor the energy to make a proper dinner, but you still want everyone to have a wholesome, nutritious meal. How can you do that in just minutes? Simple: the make-ahead dinner.

The night before (or even two nights before) you’ll make a super-easy baked ziti and before guests arrive you’ll just heat it up and toss a quick salad. Here are the details:

Baked Ziti:

This is a great comfort-food dish that also covers your carbs, protein and calcium intake. The tomato sauce, which is full of cancer-fighting Lycopene, covers your veggie intake, along with the salad below. (Thanks to my sisters-in-law, Sheryl & Lisa!)

Ingredients:

One package whole-wheat ziti pasta (I used Rigatoni) or Gluten-free pasta
One container part-skim ricotta cheese, 15 oz.
One jar all-natural pasta sauce, or make your own (I used a simple marinara sauce), 26 oz.
One bag shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese, 12 oz.

Directions:

Cook pasta according to instructions on package. Drain and pour into a 13X9 baking pan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add entire container of ricotta and ¾ jar of pasta sauce and mix well with the pasta.

Sprinkle entire bag of mozzarella on top. Using a tablespoon, dot the mozzarella with remaining pasta sauce.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until mozzarella has completely melted and the dish has browned a little on top.

To re-heat, I cut the baked ziti into squares and heat individually in the microwave for about a minute. (Check the inside to make sure it’s warm). Then I put the squares on a big platter.

Lettuce, Cucumbers & Tahini Salad

This salad needs no tomatoes – they’re already in the ziti sauce!

Ingredients:

Four cups lettuce (I used a mix of romaine and baby greens)
Two mini cucumbers, or ½ an English cucumber
Four teaspoons raw tahini (preferably roasted sesame)
One tsp dried oregano
Salt to taste

Directions:

Chop the lettuce and cucumbers. Mix tahini with a little water. Add to tahini oregano and a pinch of salt. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.

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