This is a lighter version of the traditional baked ziti, which is usually loaded with cheese and sausage. As I don’t eat red meat anymore, I substituted ground turkey for the sausage. I made this during the Coronavirus shelter in place, using whatever I had in the kitchen. I only had 1/2 cup each of mozarella and parmesan and I substituted penne pasta for ziti. (Penne are narrower than ziti , have ridges and are cut at an angle, thus resembling a quill pen.) I added flavorful red chard to up the healthy lightness. It came out cheesy enough and we had enough for several meals.
- 2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. ground turkey (half of a pound package)
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped
- A few grinds black pepper
- 1 14-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (they are the best, but if you can’t find them, use what you can)
- 1 bunch red Swiss chard, rinsed thoroughly and chopped roughly, Chop the stems about 1/2 inch diameter.
- 8 oz. ziti or penne pasta (1/2 box)
- 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 350′
Heat olive oil in a medium-large pan until it shimmers. Add ground turkey and cook on high for a few minutes to brown the meat. Add onion, chard, and salt, cover and cook on low for 15 minutes until they are soft and the onions are translucent. Add garlic and seasonings and stir for a few minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook on low for another 15 minutes. You can make the sauce ahead of time.
While sauce is cooking, boil a medium-large covered pot of salted water. Stir in the pasta, and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, until it is al dente. Add 2 tablespoons of pasta water to the sauce. The starch in the water will help emulsify the sauce. Drain pasta, then stir the pasta and the sauce together in the large pot.
Oil a casserole dish. Add a third of the pasta mix, then top with 1/4 cup of the combined cheeses. Repeat with the next layer. After you add the last layer of pasta, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the broiler on high and broil for 5 minutes until the cheese is a golden brown. It is even better the next day after the flavors meld.