Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Veggie Pasta Bake with Ricotta Sauce

Tonight the original plan was to do some sort of mushroom alfredo, but as I was rifling through the fridge, I realized I had more than just mushrooms that I needed to use. It ended up kind of a clean out the veggie drawer pasta, in a good way. Graham ate all of that. I don't think I'll have to wait until he's a teenager to eat us out of house and home. These measurements may not be entirely accurate...I just kept kind of adding things as I came across them.

olive oil to coat large skillet
1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
about 2 cups cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 med-large zucchini, diced
1/2 tsp oregano
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
10-12 oz whole wheat penne
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup bread crumbs
8 oz ricotta, low fat
1 egg
grated nutmeg
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk
grated pecorino cheese
basil, chopped

Veggies: Heat the olive oil in a skillet and toss in the eggplant with some salt and pepper. While that was getting soft and browned (about 5 minutes), I got the pasta water going. I set the mostly cooked eggplant aside and added a little more oil and the mushrooms, cooking those for another 5 minutes. Removed that, and added the onion, garlic, zucchini and oregano until the zucchini started to brown. Then I added the tomatoes. Add mushrooms and eggplant back in after the tomatoes break down a bit. While that was cooking together, I checked on the pasta. I cooked it for about 3 minutes less than the package directed since it still had to bake in the oven. After I drained it, added the butter and breadcrumbs.
Ricotta Sauce: Mix together the ricotta, egg, cheese, nutmeg and slightly warmed dairy (45 seconds in the microwave). Then toss the ricotta mixture with the pasta. Layer the pasta in an oiled baking dish, then a layer of veggies, then pasta, then veggies. Finish with more grated cheese and cover and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Top with basil and more cheese to serve.

Wow. That seems like a whole lot of directions, but it wasn't that bad. Getting the veggie mix going, and mixing up the ricotta while the pasta was still cooking moved it right along. The layering was kind of lasagna like, and the ricotta sauce did a good job of filling in the penne. I really liked that we got use so many veggies in this, and it's nice to have the kitchen cleaned by the time the pasta comes out of the oven.

*Eggplant (though not my favorite) is a good source of fiber and also contains vitamin K, which we need to help with blood clotting. A nice addition to this veggie, vitamin, and grain rich meal.

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