HEALTHIER CHEESY BAKED ZITI (GF)


January 7, 2014

Baked Ziti, Baked Penne, Cheesey Casseroles
 With all the deliciousness of a hearty casserole this healthier reduced fat, gluten free baked ziti will quickly become a favorite in your recipe box!

Every now and again I get a sudden urge to eat pasta. I'm not sure if it's my upbringing (my mom makes the best pasta) or if it's my body's way of saying "hey I need more carbs"! I've been trying blog reader as you know to eat better, and with all the literature surrounding wheat, and how it's been manipulated so much that it causes us a slew of health problems. It really gets you thinking. And so very slowly I've been making different choices. I'm not saying you should give up wheat entirely because I certainly haven't. I love a good piece of pizza on a Friday night with some vino, and I would never get into depriving myself of certain foods. I love it too much, and I'm too all over the place for that. But I have been trying to explore other options though: you know just to test the waters.

Some would say that gluten free is a fad and that its products can sometimes be worse for you, and I can absolutely agree.  Nothing seems sacred anymore especially when it comes to food! But what I like about trying to eat less wheat is that it opens up a whole new world of possibilities, and it's really allowed for me to eat a lot more fruits and veggies. Like for instance with this recipe for noodle-less Eggplant Lasagna which was delicious I might add!

I would never suggest that you go completely carb free (mostly because that's nearly impossible), but rather that you explore healthier carbohydrate options. I think that we as a society consume an enormous amount of bread products, and we probably are just making the wrong choices.  Not all carbohydrates are bad you know! But what many people might not realize is that when you eat a piece of white bread you might as well be eating heaps of sugar because of how it's digested in the body. What does this mean? Well it means that your blood sugar will spike, but then it will also crash and you'll not only feel hungry again very soon, but you'll also feel like crap! When given the choice opt for healthier carbohydrates like unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains (multigrain is a farce), vegetables, fruits and beans; these will promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, and necessary fiber to your diet.

Intrigued by this gluten free "fad" I wanted to see how these gluten free noodles stacked up. The ones I purchased contained a blend of corn and rice because I've heard that the rice pasta was soggy, and we normally prefer an el dente texture. These noodles were pretty good, I under cooked them slightly out of fear they'd turn to mush in the oven. I did find that they were slightly soggier when we ate the left overs the next day, so that's something to keep in mind. Although it was still very delicious just a different texture, but I guess that happens with regular pasta when eating it the next day anyway really. In the future I might consider making my own spaghetti sauce because the store bought varieties are really high in sugar, and I'm pretty sure I could make my own and freeze it or something.

I would definitely make this recipe again, but next time when we have company over because this dish made a casserole large enough to feed a small army; okay maybe not that many, but it was a lot for two people.  I served the pasta with some sauteed veggies cooked in olive oil and pepper. Serve with fizzy water for the ultimate Italian meal :) 


GLUTEN FREE BAKED ZITI 

*recipe adapted from Gluten Free is Life 


Ingredients

1 package of lean ground chicken (I seasoned the chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cracked pepper, and paprika)
1 package of gluten free noodles (I used penne)
1 package of low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 package of ricotta cheese  (3/4 of a cup?)
1 can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (@Cost-Co)
1 jar of three cheese tomato or spaghetti sauce (GF)
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup parm cheese
1 tablespoon of Oregano 
1 tablespoon of basil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne according to package instructions, but remember to undercook them by about 2 minutes; drain and rinse. I usually toss mine with a little olive oil, but that's up to you.

While your pasta is cooking you can also cook your ground chicken. Take a medium sized pot, and fill it with about 1/2 inch of water, and bring to a boil then add your meat. I never cook ground chicken in oil because it's well enough alone with the spices (listed above). Slowly break apart the meat until it's no longer a big solid hunk and cook until it's no longer pink inside. Usually takes about 6-8 minutes. Use your best judgement, it will cook in the oven too remember, so don't over do it. Once cooked set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix oregano and basil, ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, egg and 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce. Wash your hands and then add the tomatoes by squeezing them in your hands as seen in photo above. Be careful they squirt everywhere the little buggers.

Add the COOKED ground chicken to the cheese sauce mixture, and then add penne last (to avoid breaking the noodles from mixing).

Lightly coat the bottom of the baking dish with some tomato sauce (from the jar) and spoon in penne mixture. Top with enough cheese to cover the entire casserole followed by the Parmesan cheese, and fresh cracked pepper and more oregano (optional).

Bake covered with aluminum foil in preheated oven for 30 -40 minutes; broil uncovered for 5 or so minutes; let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Any questions please feel free to comment below or tweet me @shortpresents! 

Happy Tuesday
x
Short Presents

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