I don’t know about you, but I love all things pasta. If you put pasta in it, even if it’s the grossest thing ever, I’m sure I would try it – if only to just pick out the noodles. There is just something about those carbs that are it for me. Maybe it’s just the comfort aspect of them, but a noodle is my favorite food. A noodle covered in cheese though? Oh man. Heaven on a plate or in a bowl. Pre-vegan (which, yes it’s still a struggle to not eat real cheese even now) I would make easy pasta with just some noodles and parm and be good to go. Now? No parm anywhere. But my ultimate, favorite pasta? She doesn’t remember it, but my SILs baked ziti – why? 1. She’s an amazing cook. 2. All the cheese she put in it. Well, no cheese and no ziti (which is a noodle), so here is my vegan and gluten-free take on her dish of Wanna Be Baked Ziti.
It is The Recipe Redux time again, and this months recipe inspiration took me a bit to come up with. The recipe inspo was to come up with a dish that you had while traveling and remake it – either the same, better, or more healthfully. Do you know how hard it is to come up with a favorite travel dish? How many real people (i.e. non-bloggers) eat at real restaurants while traveling. I don’t know about you, but I travel on the cheap, which means eating out of convenience stores or vending machines. But – 10 (!) years ago while my brother and SIL were in the military in Germany, my parents and I went to see them and our brand new nephew. And of course the SIL cooked every night. I have remembered her baked ziti ever since – spicy, with red peppers, tomato-based sauce, ziti noodles, and tons of cheese. Oh that cheese baked on top. Yum for days! Well, I finally decided that a home cooked meal while traveling is just as good (if not better) than trying to remember any of the restaurant meals I’ve eaten while traveling.
Now this is just inspiration from her ziti – it is nowhere near her quality. I called it Wanna Be Ziti because there is no ziti 😦 I needed to make this gluten-free and couldn’t find ziti noodles and didn’t have penne at home. Just spaghetti noodles. Well, I didn’t want to just make a baked spaghetti – so I broke the noodles up into one-inch size pieces. I also veggied this dish up to take away some of the carbyness of all the pasta and of course no cheese. In the picture below you can see I was going to use Daiya Pepperjack cheese – well mold and behold! Mold!! On vegan cheese! And the expiration date wasn’t until October!!! What?!?! Oh. So. Mad. Why do things like that happen as you’re cooking? Why would I think to check the bag when I had just bought it? Ooooh, I was mad. F-bombs dropped. Big time. BUT. I had a jar of Parma sitting in the cupboard waiting to be used and tried. So I figured why not use that instead of cheese in this Wanna Be dish.
Start by adding 2/3 cup broth to a large sauté pan and add veggies as you chop them up. Let them start getting soft, but don’t let them get squishy since this will be baked also. Once veggies are almost fork-tender dump in the spinach and wilt down then add the artichokes with the rest of the liquid and mix and cook. Let liquid reduce out. Keep the heat on low-medium. In a medium-size pot add the tomatoes, diced sun-dried tomatoes, seasonings, and a little artichoke juice and mix. Bring to a boil then let cook until noodles are done. In a small pot cook your broken spaghetti until just tender. Drain the noodles then dump into the sauce and mix. Add a little Parma and mix again. Dump the veggies into your baking dish then top with noodles and sauce. Sprinkle Parma over the entire dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Take out, dish out, and enjoy!
Wanna Be Baked Ziti, 6 servings
2/3 C Imagine Foods Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped small
2 Red Peppers, chopped small
2 Carrots, chopped small
4 Stalks Celery, chopped small
2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Black Pepper
3 C Fresh Spinach
1 Jar Trader Joe’s Marinated Artichoke Hearts
2 Servings Ronzoni Gluten-Free Spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces
2 Cans Muir Glen Organic Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 Can Muir Glen Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Chilies
1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp Homemade Italian Seasoning
2 Tbsp Sun-Dried Tomatoes, diced small
1/4-1/3 C Parma
1. Start by chopping the onion and red peppers. In a large sauté pan pour broth and dump in veggies. Keep heat on low-medium.
2. Chop carrots, celery, and zucchini and add to the pan with garlic and pepper and mix.
3. In a medium-size pot dump the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning and mix. Bring to a boil then lower to medium heat to start cooking out the liquid.
4. Chop the Sun-Dried tomatoes into small pieces and add to the tomatoes. Pour in a little artichoke liquid for flavor.
5. Set oven to 375 degrees. Set out a large baking dish.
6. In a small pot bring water to a boil. Break spaghetti noodles into one-inch size pieces over the water and drop in. Cook until just tender.
7. Add the spinach to the veggie pan and wilt down then dump in the artichokes with the rest of the liquid and mix down. Turn to a simmer and let heat until noodles are done.
8. Once noodles are just tender drain then dump in the tomatoes pot and mix. Add a few tablespoons of Parma and mix well.
9. Dump the veggies into the baking dish and spread out.
10. Pour tomato and noodle mix over the veggies and spread out evenly.
11. Sprinkle Parma liberally over the entire dish.
12. Bake for 30 minutes.