Don’t you just love it when food tastes better the day AFTER you make it? (Apologies for ghetto white paper plate above. That’s just how we roll in Casa de Manchego Mama.) Anyway, there are some foods with which this is almost universally true:
-Rotisserie chicken (when I buy it from the store)
There are some things that just will never taste good the day after you prepare it. Things like:
-Anything deep fried. (Chicken fingers comes to mind.)
My version of baked ziti is one of those glorious pasta dishes that holds up marvelously well for a few days. Pasta that appears in soup, for example, would be a little gross the day after, because it just keeps absorbing liquid and keeps expanding and gets mushy. Not good. But in this pasta dish, the roasted vegetables and homemade tomato sauce keeps everything… firm. And delish.
This was a dish that I made Thursday night for my impromptu dinner party (thanks for coming over, C.L. and Cheddar Chap!), and I enjoyed the leftovers yesterday — on a Sunday. It still tasted awesome. The envelope, plz:
Baked whole wheat penne with mozzarella, roast vegetables, and chicken sausage
Whole wheat penne
2 cans 15oz tomatoes (diced or whole)
3 cups any roasting vegetables (I used broccoli, red onions, and butternut squash — I also used baby spinach. More on that later.)
Roasting herbs (I used a lot of rosemary, sage, and thyme)
1/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium
4-5 links chicken sausage (I used andouille)
Red pepper flakes
Freshly cracked salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Throw those cans of tomatoes into a 400 degree oven. I used the same pyrex baking dish that I made the final product in, because, well, it’s going back in there anyway, you know? I drizzled olive oil on top of the tomatoes and cracked a LOT of black pepper and a little salt on top, and stirred everything together. I threw in 4-5 springs thyme, still on the stick. When the tomatoes are done roasting, we’ll fish them out. I love how those little leaves naturally fall off! The less chopping, the better, I say.
I let the tomatoes hang out, with a couple stirs, for about 45 minutes. Halfway through, I added 1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock to loosen things up. If the sauce feels really dry at the end, add some canned tomato puree. That always does the trick.
On a baking sheet, toss the chopped vegetables with a little olive oil, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, finely chopped rosemary and salt and pepper. Let roast for 20-25 minutes, or until vegetable look tender and golden.
Dice the sausage into little coins and throw into a hot skillet with some finely diced red onion and red pepper flakes. Let it get nice and crispy… it’s sooo good if you brown it up first before throwing it in the pasta. Shouldn’t take longer than 5-7 minutes — do it in batches so you don’t crowd your pan. I’m talking crispy, people!
Bring a big pot of water to boil, throw in some salt, and add a box of whole wheat penne. I find that the whole wheat version tastes heartier and holds up better over the weekend. Also looks really pretty browning in the oven. But I’m a stickler for detail like that.
Cook the pasta until 3-4 minutes to doneness. I like it verrrrrry al dente because it keeps cooking in the oven, and I love those crispy bits that poke out of the cheese at the very end.
Now the fun part! Take out the sauce and mix in vegetables and pasta. Rinse the pasta and stir it all up. Oh — don’t forget to dice half the amount of mozzarella (swiss would taste good here too, or maybe a smoked gouda) and stir it all in, too. That way there is some cheesy goodness not just on top, but throughout as well. Grab 2-3 packed cups of fresh baby spinach and dice into ribbons and throw that in there. It adds an amazing color pop and vitamin goodness.
Layer the rest of the mozzarella on top. Throw it back into your 400 degree over and let cook, uncovered, for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubby.
Tear some fresh basil on top, and enjoy! We ate this with a spinach salad with dried cherries and toasted pinenuts. Yum! This perhaps not the most healthy of dishes, but I figure that by controlling salt, oil and using whole wheat pasta instead of white, chicken sausage instead of pork, and tons of vegetables, this is reasonably nutritious.