It’s kind of a bummer that most comfort food is on the fattening side. Macaroni and cheese, vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce, yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting, and, yeah. Baked ziti. If it’s not loaded with sugar, it’s loaded with cheese. And don’t get me started on the carbs.
Ah well. Sometimes cheese-loaded carb-city is in order. An added bonus cheese-wise is that if something’s got a lot of it, there’s not really room for meat – thus, the meat-eaters in your life probably hardly notice it’s not there. As in this baked ziti, for instance.
Most baked ziti recipes call for ground beef or crumbled sausage, but you know what? I’m going to argue that it’s just not needed. Superfluous, even. When you start with a great Italian tomato sauce, layer it with al dente pasta and four different cheeses – melty provolone and mozzarella along with creamy gorgonzola and salty parmesan – then add sour cream and mushrooms, well … that’s just perfection right there.
This recipe is, however, super-easy to adapt for meat eaters, if you really insist. Use a pasta sauce that already includes meat, or cook up two separate versions, layering some browned ground beef or sausage in the middle of one of them for the carnivores.
Oh, and obviously you can leave the mushrooms out too, if you’re not too into them. Still perfectly delicious. I promise.
However you slice – well, really, scoop – it, it’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy just like comfort food is supposed to.
The perfect freezer recipe
This recipe freezes beautifully. You can make it up to the point of baking, freeze, thaw, then follow directions to bake. I also like to scoop individual leftover servings into Ziploc bags and freeze. Then I just pull it out, stick the frozen block on a plate, and microwave it on high for about three minutes. Instant lunch, and it tastes like it just came out of the oven. Gotta love it.
Vegetarian Four-Cheese Mushroom Baked Ziti
- 1/2 pound dry rigatoni or penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup white button mushrooms (sliced)
- 2 cups tomato-based pasta sauce (my go-to for this recipe is my beloved Italian Tomato Sauce)
- 3 ounces provolone cheese (sliced)
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded (about 1 1/2 cups))
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, then add pasta. Cook until barely al dente, about 8 minutes, or about 2/3 of the time recommended on the pasta package directions. Drain.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the mushrooms in olive oil until softened, about 6-7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes.
- In an 8" x 8" dish, layer half the cooked pasta, then half the tomato sauce. Cover with the provolone slices. Add the sour cream in spoonfuls, then carefully spread into a thin layer. Top with the Gorgonzola cheese. Add the remaining pasta, then the mozzarella cheese. Spread the rest of the pasta sauce over the top, and finally top with the Parmesan cheese.
- Cook for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.