Baked Zucchini Ziti

I was personally surprised to learn that Zucchini is actually a fruit and has quite a dense nutritional value
I was personally surprised to learn that Zucchini is actually a fruit and has quite a dense nutritional value

Baked Zucchini Ziti is a great idea for a Sunday dinner. Zucchini is the key to this dish which is generally used as a vegetable in savoury dishes. I was personally surprised to learn that Zucchini is actually a fruit and has quite a dense nutritional value. It’s peel is an excellent source of dietary fibre and provides all the benefits of fibre. It contains certain antioxidant and folate values, is an excellent source of potassium and has moderate amounts of vitamins A, C and B complex. This dish is a little fussier to prepare than most I recommend but, if you approach it in the steps I suggest, it comes together nicely and turns out to be very yummy.

It probably goes without saying but the most important benefit of switching zucchini into this dish in place of the pasta is a calorie windfall while still supplying similar nutritional value. A cup of sliced zucchini has about 20 calories versus about 220 calories in the same amount of cooked ziti pasta. I also swap out full fat cheese for lighter versions which also cuts calories and fat content without sacrificing taste. These are both excellent Veteran Moves than can be used in most pasta casseroles.

The antioxidants in zucchini help support brain function including fighting cognitive decline, have cancer fighting value and its high vitamin C content helps the body resist infections. In particular, the potassium in zucchini helps fight the development of heart disease and has been shown to improve cognition, concentration and neural activity in general. The B complex vitamins in zucchini are valuable in helping combat nausea and depression while its vitamin A helps skin and hair.

Aside from zucchini, the dish requires crushed tomatoes, ground beef, onion, garlic, light ricotta and light mozzarella cheese
INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. ground beef
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
4 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ coins
2 tbsp. thinly sliced basil, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 fresh light ricotta
2 c. shredded light mozzarella
As a first step, slice zucchini into 1/4" coins...
As a first step, slice zucchini into 1/4″ coins… here’s where my mandolin slicer is a godsend! It’s for sure a Veteran Tool every kitchen needs! If you don’t have one use a sharp chef’s knife to try to slice uniform zucchini coins
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it's soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute
Preheat oven to 375°.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it’s soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute.
Add meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink, 6 minutes. Drain fat
Add meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink, 6 minutes. Drain fat.
Return saucepan over medium heat and add tomato paste and oregano. 
Cook for 2 minutes more, until slightly darkened. Add crushed tomatoes and bring sauce to a simmer
Return saucepan over medium heat and add tomato paste and oregano.
Cook for 2 minutes more, until slightly darkened. Add crushed tomatoes and bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and flavors have melded, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in zucchini and basil and season again with salt and pepper
Remove from heat and stir in zucchini and basil and season again with salt and pepper. 
In a large baking dish, place half the zucchini in an even layer
In a large baking dish, place half the zucchini in an even layer.
Dollop all over with half the ricotta, and sprinkle with half the mozzarella and Parmesan
Dollop all over with half the ricotta, and sprinkle with half the mozzarella and Parmesan.
Add rest of zucchini in an even layer on top, and top with remaining cheeses
Add rest of zucchini in an even layer on top, and top with remaining cheeses.
Bake until cheese is melty...
Bake until cheese is melty…
... and zucchini is tender, approximately 25 minutes
… and zucchini is tender, approximately 25 minutes
If you like you can sprinkle with some fresh grated Parmesan and/or fresh basil
If you like you can sprinkle with some fresh grated Parmesan and/or fresh basil

2 thoughts on “Baked Zucchini Ziti

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