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Monday, January 31, 2011

Baked Pasta - A Healthy Spin on Ziti Al Forno

I was in the 8th grade when my friend and I came across a recipe to make a baked dish with macaroni. Of course, we decided to wait until the next time Mom was out of the house and then made it. We went to the store, got all the ingredients and made this perfectly delicious baked macaroni dish. I still remember the excitement and pride, especially when my brother (a particularly finicky eater) praised it to no end. So after that almost everytime I had an opportunity, I prepared this dish. The following is a cross between this baked dish and the baked ziti al forno that I ate at an Italian restaurant. I am generally not inclined to make a dish whose sauce consists of five different types of cheeses as the main ingredients. So I decided to experiment, and finally came up with this variation. Definitely a healthier option and delicious!



Ingredients
1 packet of penne pasta, cooked per the instruction on the box
1 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp, Italian spice mix
4-5 tsps of crushed tomato
1 tbsp butter cut into small pieces (optional)
white pepper, to taste
salt to taste
cheese, to top the pasta dish (you can use a mix of shredded cheese, or parmesan cheese)
3-4 tbsp bread crumbs



Method
Mix together the milk and egg. Add the Italian spice, crushed tomato, pepper and salt to this. Mix the cheese and bread crumbs together and keep aside. In a baking dish, layer the pasta, then pour the milk and egg mixture over the pasta layer. This will fill the spaces between the pasta. Then add a layer of cheese and bread crumb mixture (add as thick a layer of cheese as you want). Add the butter pieces. Bake this for 15-20 minutes at 400F. After 10 mins, cover the dish with aluminium foil (do not wrap it as you want the water vapor to escape), so that the layer of cheese doesn't burn. Insert a knife into the center of the dish and if it comes out clean, the pasta is completely cooked.





Tips
You can also bake the pasta without the cheese layer. Then add the cheese layer to the pasta, switch the setting of your oven to broil, and broil it till the cheese melts. Make sure that you pan is broil safe.
You can also added some vegetables along with the pasta layer, like diced carrots, beans, peas or corn.

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