It is very kid-friendly and with the spinach worked in there you feel good giving it to them. If you, or the kiddos, don't like onions you can leave them out or use a shallot which is more mild.
Fun Fact: Little C is our picky eater in the house and this was one of the first meals we made that wasn't a chicken nugget or hot dog that he actually enjoyed! For the sake of full disclosure, we told him they were "finger noodles." Meaning we let him put his finger through the tube-like hole in the ziti and he could bite it right off of his finger. Sounds ridiculous but it worked and he ate his whole plate and has ever since! Of course the "finger noodle" novelty wore off and he eats it like a proper human using a fork, but we still to this day call the recipe "finger noodles" at our house. Just thought it was worth mentioning if you are struggling with a picky eater yourself. ;)
You can also make it vegetarian and omit the sausage. You can use whole wheat pasta and fat-free or skim ricotta to make it healthier. I still use regular mozzeralla though, because the low-fat cheeses never melt just right.
Baked Ziti with Spinach and Italian Sausage
- 12 oz uncooked pasta such as ziti (or rigatoni works too)
- Approx 4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
- 16 oz sweet Italian sausage
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped (or 1/2 of a large onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil (2tbsp fresh basil if you have it)
- salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 8 oz fat-free ricotta
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozzarella
- olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with oil spray or two square pans if dividing.
In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to instructions until just shy of al dente. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, brown the sausage and once it's cooked remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
In the same saucepan add olive oil and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrent. Add chopped spinach, salt pepper and crushed tomatoes. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
Add sauce and the cooked sausage to the large pot with the pasta. Add half of the mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and ricotta. Mix well then transfer to the baking pan(s).
Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan(s) and spread evenly. Top with the remaining mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned. Let it cool 5 minutes, then cut it into 8 equal portions.
Ovens may vary. I like to cover mine with foil for the first 15 minutes then cook the remaining 15 minutes uncovered to keep the cheese from getting too browned.
This can be made up to a day in advance and stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
If dividing in two square baking dishes one can be frozen. Thaw the dish prior to preparing and cook the same way.
Source: Adapted from - Skinnytaste