Though the vegetarian lifestyle has become much more popular in recent years, it can still be very difficult to find meals and recipes that are vegetarian, but still substantial and filling enough to serve for a big meal. A lot of vegetarian recipes rely on the inclusion of pasta, because it provides lots of carbohydrates, which can be very filling. Pasta is also frequently used in vegetarian meals because it is a kind of neutral food that can be easily mixed with a variety of flavors.
Whether you are embracing a vegetarian lifestyle, cutting back on meat-heavy meals, or simply looking to increase your vegetable intake, preparing vegetarian baked ziti is a great place to start. Baked ziti is a very popular pasta dish, as well as a versatile meal that can be tweaked in a variety of ways. Baked ziti is also a great meal to make if you’re new to cooking, and want to practice preparing meals that incorporate many different flavors. Here are a few variations on vegetarian baked ziti that will taste great and provide you with some important vegetable nutrients.
Basic Vegetable Baked Ziti
This basic recipe puts a bit of a healthy spin on a meal that usually consists of simply pasta, sauce, and a lot of melted cheese. The ingredients you’ll need are:
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 red onion, sliced to your liking
-1 zucchini, halved and sliced to your liking
-1 cup mushrooms (baby bella recommended), sliced to your liking
-1 cup pasta (whole wheat penne or ziti recommended)
-1 container (16 oz.) ricotta cheese
-1 cup mozzarella cheese
-1 jar (24 oz.) marinara sauce
-1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Follow these directions to prepare your basic vegetable baked ziti:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease a baking dish (9 x 13 recommended) with oil or cooking spray
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the vegetables in the order of onions first, for about four minutes alone, followed by adding zucchini and mushrooms, for about eight more minutes.
- Mix vegetables with pasta, marinara sauce, salt and pepper to your liking, and ricotta cheese. Stir until these ingredients are very well combined.
- Move ingredients to the baking dish, and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for thirty minutes, topping with parsley before serving. (Allow a few minutes for the ingredients to set after removing the dish from the oven and before serving.)
Roasted Baked Ziti
This recipe involves similar flavors that are found in a traditional vegetarian baked ziti, but the vegetables in this recipe are roasted, rather than sautéed, before all of the ingredients are combined. The ingredients you’ll need for this recipe are:
-2 red peppers, cored and cut to your liking
-2 zucchinis, cubed
-2 summer squashes, cubed
-4 cremini mushrooms, cut to your liking
-1 yellow onion, sliced to your liking
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon salt, divided into 2 half-teaspoons
-1 teaspoon ground pepper, divided into 2 half-teaspoons
-1 tablespoon Italian herb mix or Italian seasoning of your choice
-1 pound penne pasta
-3 cups marinara sauce of your choice
-1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
-1 ½ cups thawed frozen peas
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
-1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
-2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Follow these directions to prepare your roasted baked ziti:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine the squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms in a bowl. Toss with salt, pepper, dried herbs, and olive oil. Using a baking sheet or a roasting pan, roast the vegetable mixture for about fifteen minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- As the vegetables are roasting, cook the penne pasta according to the box instructions, bringing water to a boil and cooking for about seven minutes. Drain the pasta before it becomes too soft, as it will be cooked further in the oven.
- Toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetable mix, adding in the cheeses, frozen peas, the remainder of the salt and pepper, and the marinara sauce. Mix until the ingredients are combined and evenly coating the pasta.
- Move ingredients into a greased baking pan (9 x 13 recommended), topping the mixture with the remaining Parmesan cheese and small butter pieces. Bake for 25 minutes. The top coating of cheese and butter should be well melted. Allow the food to set for a few minutes before serving.
Kale Baked Ziti
This recipe for vegetarian baked ziti makes use of kale, the green commonly referred to as a ‘super food’ for its antioxidant and cleansing properties. Kale is one of the cornerstones of healthy eating in a modern diet. This recipe originally calls for pasta shells rather than ziti or penne, but other kinds of pasta can be substituted according to your preferences. To make kale baked ziti, you will need the following ingredients:
-Salt and pepper, to taste (ground pepper and course salt recommended)
-6 oz. small pasta shells, or pasta of your choice
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-1 small yellow onion, diced or cut to your liking
-2 minced garlic cloves
-1 cup sliced mushrooms (baby bella recommended)
-1 small bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
-1 container fat-free ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
-Lemon zest from one lemon
-6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Follow these directions to prepare your kale baked ziti:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease a baking dish (9 x 9 recommended) with cooking spray or oil of your choice.
- Cook pasta according to box instructions, boiling water, cooking for specified time, and draining the pasta.
- Melt butter in a large skillet of medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add garlic, onion, and mushrooms, sautéing for about five minutes. Add the kale and cook, covered, for five minutes more, or until kale is tender. Add the contents of the skillet to the drained pasta.
- Add ricotta cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese (3 tablespoons), and lemon zest to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the mixture into the baking cheese. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for thirty minutes, or until cheese is golden brown. Allow meal to set for a few minutes before serving.
These three vegetarian baked ziti recipes will provide a substantial and filling meal for you and whomever you’re cooking for. These examples all follow a similar set of instructions, so they can be easily changed to include your favorite vegetables, sauces, cheeses, or pastas. Marinara sauce, for example, could be replaced with cheese sauce or pesto. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, or artichokes could be added to any of these mixtures. And whole wheat or vegetable pasta can be substituted for traditional ziti, penne, or shells. Baked ziti recipes are very versatile, and can easily accommodate a vegetarian lifestyle, or simply provide a meal that lets you take a break from eating meat.
Now that you’re familiar with a few ways to prepare vegetarian baked ziti, you can play around with the recipe on your own, adding your own blend of favorite vegetables or experimenting with different kinds of pasta and sauces. Vegetables are the most commonly underappreciated part of the traditional food pyramid, and most adults, as well as children, do not eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. Vegetarian baked ziti, along with similar recipes, is a great way to incorporate vegetables into a filling and satisfying meal, whether you’re a strict vegetarian or not.