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This three-cheese pasta bake is comforting, better for you and easy to make

Three Cheese Pasta and Vegetable Bake. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle

Three Cheese Pasta and Vegetable Bake. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle

Published Jun 28, 2022

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By Ellie Krieger

This recipe ticks all the boxes for the kind of food I want to usher me into the new year. It's healthful and comforting (yes, it's possible to have both!) and it's convenient – easy to pull together, make ahead and reheat.

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It's a better-for-you spin on a familiar favourite, baked ziti, made with whole-grain pasta (although regular pasta would be fine if you prefer it), packed with vegetables – sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes – and made cheesy and creamy with a more healthful than usual balance of part-skim ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan.

Baked until bubbly inside and melty and golden on top, it's the kind of dish that's like a cosy spot in the sun on a cold winter's day.

This recipe makes 8 to 10 servings, so it is an easy cook-once-eat-twice situation for most families. When I'm just cooking for my husband and myself, rather than baking it all at once in a 33 by 23cm pan, I divide the batch into two 20-by-20cm baking dishes and place one, tightly covered, in the freezer to double the dinner-at-the-ready pay-off.

Three Cheese Pasta and Vegetable Bake (Serves 8-10)

Three Cheese Pasta and Vegetable Bake. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle

Ingredients

450g whole grain or regular penne pasta, or other tube shaped pasta

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2 tbs olive oil, plus more for brushing the pan

450g baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

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1 (450g) bag frozen broccoli, defrosted (may substitute with 5 cups blanched fresh chopped broccoli)

7 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, drained and thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)

1 tsp dried basil

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½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp fine sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 (450g) container part-skim ricotta cheese

4 cups marinara sauce (home-made or store-bought)

1 cup (110g) shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese

¼ cup (14g) grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)

Method

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than suggested in the package directions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180ºC. Brush a 23-by-33-cm ovenproof dish with oil.

In a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid evaporates and they begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, 2 minutes more. Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Add the vegetables to the drained pasta in the pot, along with the ricotta and marinara, and stir to combine well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and evenly spread it out. Sprinkle the top with the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and cover the dish loosely with foil.

Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

From cookbook author and registered nutritionist Ellie Krieger.

The Washington Post

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