Pasta night is my family’s go-to when I’ve had a busy day with the kids, because it’s fast, easy and gets my family fed. I suspect this is true for a lot of families, especially when we’re all trying to get back in the swing of things with school starting. Sometimes you just need to throw some spaghetti in a pot, top it with a little sauce and call it a night. But with just 2 more ingredients and an extra 15 minutes, you have a home-made meal worth savoring; a satisfyingly ooey gooey meal that will put a smile on everyone’s face. That’s what Barilla Pasta’s #InTheKitchenWithDad is all about. And tonight we’re making an Easy Peasy Baked Ziti. Pasta isn’t a bit player, it’s the star of the show!
Even though Easy Peasy Baked Ziti only has 4 ingredients (plus seasoning), it magically has all 5 food groups: meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal) for your protein, pasta for your grain, mozzarella cheese for your dairy and tomato sauce for your fruits AND vegetables because does anyone really believe that tomatoes are a fruit? Fine, you’re right, tomatoes are a fruit (though I’ve never seen one in fruit salad). Have a side of broccoli for that fifth food group, stickler.
1lb meatloaf mix (can substitute ground beef or turkey)
1lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
Italian seasoning, salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a pan, brown your beef with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper (to taste). At the same time, boil your pasta for 7 minutes (instead of 10, as instructed on the box). Barilla Blue Box Ziti is ideal for this dish because it stands up to the meat, cheese and sauce, maintaining a nice bite and cooking up perfectly al dente. Drain the browned meat and mix it with Barilla sauce (I prefer their Tomato and Basil, but they have a variety to choose from) and the parboiled pasta. In a baking dish, layer the pasta mixture and slices of the mozzarella cheese, and then layer it all again. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered if you like the top layer crispy. If you’re lucky, your kids won’t like the crispy top layer and there will be more for you.
And that’s it! Easy peasy, right?
One of the best things about this recipe is that it’s so quick and simple, you can put your kids to work. Actually, it’ll probably take more time if your kids “help,” but it will be more fun. After you brown the meat and boil the pasta, let the kiddos do the mixing. The combo of the sauce, meat and pasta makes a fun squishy sound when you stir it all together. Good times! And when the kids are in charge of where to put the cheese and how much to use (vs. how much to eat beforehand) they’ll have real ownership of the meal, and will gladly gobble it up when it’s done.
Back to school time can be hectic, busy and stressful. It’s nice to have an easy recipe for a delicious meal that you can make and enjoy as a family. When the kids are #InTheKitchenWithDad everyone eats, everyone’s happy and, hopefully, there aren’t too many dirty dishes because my kids definitely don’t help with those yet.