spinach & gouda baked ziti.

Last week I hosted girl’s night at my place for the first time. After my run on Wednesday I headed to the grocery store to get what I needed to make dinner (and then some).

I started cooking as soon as I got home. I wanted to put it all together in advance so all I had to do after work on Thursday post-run was to preheat the oven.

The girls came over and we dined on caesar salad, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes from a bakery in Lexington (courtesy of Mary Beth), and ziti baked with spinach, tomatoes, and gouda.

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 ounces uncooked ziti – I wish they  made whole wheat ziti but alas, they don’t. Also, I bought a 16 ounce box of ziti and used about 12 ounces in this recipe, so I used a lot of the other ingredients fairly liberally.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano – Yes, they sell canned, diced onions already with basil, garlic, and oregano.
  • 1 (10-ounce) can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (such as Rotel Bold Italian) – I couldn’t find Italian seasoned diced tomatoes so I just went with original Rotel and it worked fine. In fact, the dish had a lot of spice, so I don’t know that I would’ve wanted any more.
  • 4 cups baby spinach – I know for sure I used more than 4 cups.
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded, smoked Gouda cheese, divided – At Reagan‘s suggestion I nixed the “smoked” gouda and just went with plain gouda and it worked fine.
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
  3. Heat the oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach to pan; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add pasta and 3/4 cup cheese to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish (I used two different sized pyrex dishes) lightly coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. (I refrigerated mine and baked it the next day and it worked great.)

Voila! I even had leftovers for the weekend.

The meal was easy and perfect for a group of 5 girls. We had so much fun and even went and sat by the pool with our wine afterwards. This makes me want to host girl’s night again and again.

When I finished prepping my meal Wednesday night, I diced up some more of the yellow pepper and onion, minced another garlic clove, and threw them in with a can of tomato sauce to make some sauce to toss on the leftover ziti noodles I’d cooked and had myself dinner. I even shredded some gouda over the top.

Nom.

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