Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked Ziti.. and gluten free!

Since I've really wanted to make a point to cook gluten free I thought I might as well check out some pasta alternatives. I wasn't expecting much because I have not enjoyed most other gluten replacements, up until now. In my cooking I have never liked making substitutes. If you can't eat something, just don't eat it: this has been my philosophy until now at least. And usually it's because the alternatives aren't necessarily good for you, they're just alternatives. I bought some gluten free cookies the other day, and I eat them all the time, but they're just not as good as the original. And when you read the ingredients, it has I think 5 flour substitutes, and if I were baking it's just not worth the hassle.
Back to my dinner. I wanted to at least try another form of pasta, because I love pasta, and it makes for an easy and cheap dinner usually. On a few food sites I check out I have seen quinoapasta, and I thought, I'll try it. So I went to our local health food store (fremont natural foods, I think) and I wasn't impressed. I was hoping to see isles of glorious healthy food, and it is really more of a health supplement store, but they had a few food items. I found a bag of brown rice pasta, and decided to try it out. I love brown rice, it's always been one of my favorites, and so healthy! Anyways.. here's what I made :)

{top and bottom photos are the pre baked shots}

A Gluten-Free Healthy Baked Ziti

package of penne pasta (1 lb/16 ounces)
I used Tinkyada brown rice pasta
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1 T. fennel seed
1 tsp. dry thyme or sage
salt and ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 jar of marinara (any flavor or brand) they're usually 26 ounces
16 ounce container of low fat ricotta cheese
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves chopped
2 cups grated low fat mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions; rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside. In a large pan, saute the onion with a little olive oil, add ground turkey. Keep on medium heat, and continue to separate the meat into smaller pieces. Add fennel, and seasonings to taste. Cook until all meat looks seared and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Place the meat on a plate and set aside. In the same pan, over medium heat, add garlic and mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook until golden brown, and add the marinara. Over low heat, stir the ricotta cheese into the mixture. Turn off the heat, but make sure that the cheese is completely mixed in, with no chunks. Add the basil to the marinara sauce, as well as the cooked turkey, and mix.

In a large baking dish (or a 9x13 pan) drizzle some olive oil to grease the pan. Add about half of your cooked pasta to the pan. Spoon or pour about half of the sauce over the pasta. Lightly toss the pasta and sauce. Continue to add the pasta and sauce until the pan is just about full. (I usually have a cup or two of pasta left over, which I refrigerate and use as a quick meal in the next few days). Make sure to add all remaining sauce. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to the top of the mix. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the edges all begin to bubble. Remove foil and top with grated cheese, and bake for another 10 minutes.

And enjoy!

Why I used some of the ingredients..
brown rice pasta - gluten-free, full of fiber and nutrients
ground turkey - much healthier than your Italian sausage, but tastes great
fennel - it gives you a similar taste to the Italian sausage
low fat ricotta - tastes and feels almost identical to the original, and less saturated fat
low fat mozzarella - tastes and feels almost identical to the original, and less saturated fat

Feel free to use your everyday pasta, Italian sausage, and any cheese you would like. I just wanted to give you a healthy alternative to a classic Italian dish!

(Jonna I absolutely love the dishes you gave me!!)

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  1. =D it made me smile to see the baking dishes in these photos! hope you enjoy many a delicious...and photogenic creation in them for years to come!