Let me do all those things in about 15 minutes with meal preparation. And when I have time to make plans, well, that’s just icing on the cake. Even though it’s a super-fast preparation to knock out a big salad, wash and prepare veggies for snacks and recipes and prepare a whole chicken to repurpose for other meals later in the week – it still pushes me forward for the week ahead and reduces the likelihood of not knowing the answer to ‘What’s for dinner? ‘Or have something to scramble to quickly put on the table. This is why today I share this Baked Ziti 5-ingredient recipe. It’s a daily meal plan and something I can prepare for, put in the refrigerator and pop in the oven when the week comes.
12 oz. gluten-free pasta of choice
½ lb. bulk mild Italian sausage and an additional 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. garlic powder, optional
1 24-25 oz. jar sugar-free marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
Fresh basil, optional
1. Preheat oven at about 350 degrees F. Grease and set aside a 9-inch baking dish (or two 9×9 inch baking dishes if one is freezing).
2. Add the ground beef and sausage over medium-high heat to a skillet or saute pan. Using a spatula split the meat so it cooks quickly and evenly and cooks until the meat is not pink anymore. Drain meat fat, if desired.
3. Using a slotted spoon or spatula to move meat mixture to a paper towel-lined tray.
4. When cooking meat, pull up a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Remove pasta and cook for 10-11 minutes or until al dente (pasta should be slightly firm or mushy when boiled – and even more al dente if you intend on freezing it). Drain the pasta and pour it into the greased saucepan (or, if freezing, break between the two pans).
5. To the pan (or pans) add beef, Italian seasoning, marinara sauce, and 3/4 cup cheese with the noodles. Stir gently. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 tablespoon cheese.
6. See note below if one pan is freezing.
7. Cover foil pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. For the last 10 minutes remove the foil to allow the cheese to melt on top.
8. If needed, sprinkle with fresh basil.
Prepare for freezing may Step 5. Tightly cover the pan with tape, and move to the freezer. Will keep frozen for up to 3 months.
Simply replace your 1-2 cups of ground beef and Italian sausage with your favorite vegetables. I like sprinkled zucchini, mushrooms and peppers so don’t hesitate to use whatever you have on hand. When you use greens such as spinach or kale, you don’t have to precook them – just mix them right into the pasta by adding the sugar-free marinara sauce and cheese.
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