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Bad-Ass Baked Ziti

Posted Mar 14 2010 4:07pm

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Let’s get something straight: I do not spend my days eating rabbit food. I do eat healthily, but I certainly have a taste for heavy dishes as well and I have no problem with indulging that on occasion. It usually happens at a restaurant, but if I have the means to make such a dish at home, I will certainly do so.

Behold, the means:

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Bertolli sent me two of their new pasta sauces via Foodbuzz ’s Tastemaker program. In fact, if you visit Bertolli’s website, the tagline is “The restaurant experience you create at home.” SO! There you have it. Let’s inspect the goods.

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Four Cheese Rosa and Arrabbiata sauces. The former is rather like a tomato-infused alfredo sauce, and the latter is a slightly spicy tomato sauce.

Last weekend, I was craving some baked-pasta-gooey-comforting bizness like whoa, at which point I remembered I had the Arrabbiata on hand to make it with. The recipe you're about to read mutated as I went along, resulting in a rather unorthodox yet amazing pasta dish that satisfied my craving and then some.

Bad-Ass Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a large eggplant
  • 1/2-3/4 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • almond (or other) milk for drizzling
  • 6 oz uncooked whole wheat ziti
  • 1 24oz jar Bertolli Arrabbiata sauce (or other tomato sauce)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup Bertolli Four Cheese Rosa sauce
  • bacon bits for topping, optional (but bad-ass!)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350*.

2. Slice eggplant in quarters lengthwise, then in thin slices (no more than 1/4 inch). Place in a large bowl.

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3. Drizzle milk over eggplant lightly, just enough to moisten all surfaces. Toss with your hands.

4. Add bread crumbs and continue to toss until eggplant is well coated.

5. Spread slices on a greased cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes.

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6. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Once done, drain and toss with Arrabbiata sauce and spinach.

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7. Alternate layering pasta mixture and eggplant slices in a 2-quart casserole dish.

8. Bake 20 minutes, then spread Four Cheese Rosa sauce over the top and sprinkle on bacon bits (if using). Bake 10 more minutes, or until warmed through and bubbling slightly.

Serves 4

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Like I said, this recipe evolved as I was making it. I’d originally intended to do sort of a standard baked ziti + eggplant casserole, but then I was like, I don’t feel like making a salad…I’m just gonna throw in some spinach so it’ll be a one-pot meal.

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Meanwhile, I’m wondering what I’ll do with the Four Cheese Rosa, now that I’d found a use for the Arrabbiata. I don’t ordinarily make myself meals with cream sauces—these kinds of ingredients are the kinds I tend to reserve for restaurant dining. But then my inner Paula Deen piped up: Honey, just pour that stuff on top! And add some bacon while you’re at it.

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No, I wasn’t aware I had an inner Paula Deen. Not altogether a bad thing, though, if your dinner comes out as good as mine did. It was a practical move too—the cheese sauce eliminated the need to add cheese (not to mention actually go through the labor of grating it), and I’ve had some vegan bacon bits lurking in my fridge for so long that I rarely remember to use them.

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So, while a legit Italian chef might cringe at my use of pasta and various sauces all in one place (and correct my use of the word “ziti” in place of what is obviously penne), I was quite happy to have conducted this experiment.

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Recipes are overrated, anyway. Unless they’re mine, that is. [WINK!]

What’s your favorite Italian dish?

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