I hate thunderstorms. I gasp for air every time I see a flash of lightening and I jump every time there’s a loud thunder boom. Yes, I have the heart of a church mouse. 😉 Unfortunately it’s the time of year when thunderstorms are normal and frequent so I’ve been in rare form the last few nights.
When I’m afraid or my nerves are running rampant, I like to turn to some good old comfort food to make me feel better. Isn’t baked ziti some of the best comfort food out there? I think it is, but don’t get too excited for it. While I adore it, I seldom order it in restaurants and I don’t make it at home very often. This time I wanted something lighter and healthier. (I’m getting into a bathing suit soon…yikes.)
This baked cauliflower is just like a meatless ziti, except that I’ve replaced the pasta with cauliflower and I’ve used all low fat cheeses.
Baked Cauliflower Recipe
(About 4 servings)
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1/4 cup onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley, divided per the directions
- 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup reduced fat Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 head of cauliflower (equivalent to about 1 pound)
- Heat the oil in a large pot over Medium heat.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
- Season with sugar, basil leaves, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley.
- Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To make the ricotta mixture, mix together the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of parsley, ricotta cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
- When the sauce is almost done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cut the cauliflower and remove the stems. Note, you can use frozen cauliflower and the stems are already removed.
- In a large pot, add the cauliflower florets and enough water to cover all of the florets. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, or until the florets are fork tender.
- Drain the cauliflower.
- Put the cauliflower back into the pot and stir in 2 cups of the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture.
- Pour the cauliflower mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish.
- Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of ricotta mixture on top of the cauliflower mixture.
- Pour the remaining 1 cup of the marinara sauce on top of the ricotta mixture.
- Sprinkle the Mozzarella cheese on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
Source: Tina’s Chic Corner
Don’t let the lengthy directions fool you into thinking that this is complicated. I just like to be extra detailed. 😉 I’m partial to eating homemade marinara sauce because it always tastes better than the jarred stuff, but feel free to use your favorite jar sauce instead if you’re in a rush. This meal will be just as tasty. I’ve conveniently portioned out the amounts that you need in the directions should you go that route.
For those of you that are regulars to this blog (or Italians that make their own) you may notice the huge list of instructions above is just a sneaky way of explaining how to “make 1/2 a batch of my homemade marinara“. This sauce recipe is my official go to sauce for virtually everything I make that’s even slightly Italian… it’s that good.
If you’ve ever made baked ziti or lasagna before then you are familiar with the preparation of layering lots of stuff. That’s the same prep process here. In the photo below the baked cauliflower is half built. You’ve got the cauliflower, cheese, and sauce mixture topped with the ricotta cheese mixture. (Keeping going with the rest of the directions, i.e. add more sauce and the mozzarella cheese.)
I know what you might be thinking… cauliflower instead of pasta? Really? Yes, really. I kid you not, this is some awesome eats even with the missing pasta. When I served it to my husband for dinner two servings vanished almost so quickly that I’d wondered if I’d actually served him or just thought I had.
I had very high expectations for this dish I’m usually disappointed with meals that substitute pasta or bread for cauliflower. It never really tastes the same. However, this dish is sort of an exception since we’re not even trying to imitate pasta.
Does this taste like pasta? No. Does this taste as good as the pasta version? Absolutely. Plus, this version is SO much healthier! Bathing suit, here I come!
The photograph below catches me in the act… I dug right into the dish in between photo shoots and couldn’t stop eating it!
Do you love or hate thunderstorms? My husband enjoys watching them and I get freaked out by them.
Here are some other awesome healthy Italian eats.