When school starts back, it’s not just the kids who get a change in routine, it’s their parents as well.
We all want consistent bedtimes, a plan for school lunches and some ideas for easy dinners that accommodate soccer practice, dance lessons and school meetings.
I can’t help you much with the bedtimes, but I do have a few ideas for easy dinners that can make the school week go a little smoother and keep you out of the drive-thru line so often. And if you make enough food, then you’ll have leftovers for those lunch boxes!
I’m going to share two simple casseroles — one I’ve been making for years and have published here before, and the second a recipe that I tried earlier this month.
Soon after Reggie and I were married, I found a recipe for baked ziti that was easy enough for me to make. I had cooked some before I was married, but I still relied on simple dishes to get me through those early years of making my own meals.
This baked ziti recipe is as easy as it gets and has only four ingredients: a jar of spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, ziti and Parmesan cheese. You can vary the recipe each time you make it by buying a different brand or variety of sauce or you could forget the ziti and try another pasta shape. Twists would be good in this recipe.
The baked ziti is quick to prepare when you get home from work or school or can be made the night before and refrigerated for baking the next day. It’s also an easy recipe to teach the young cooks in your house.
Team this easy dish with a loaf of fresh bread and a green salad or even a fruit salad, and you have a delicious and easy meal.
I considered making my easy baked ziti for an Italian dinner for Bible school workers a few weeks back, but after looking at the list of dishes my friends were making I decided to go with more of a white sauce for my dish just to offer some variety. The problem? I didn’t have a recipe. But I did see a jar of pasta sauce that caught my imagination — it’s Bertolli’s Four Cheese Rosa Sauce. (I love the word Rosa, by the way, because it was my paternal grandmother’s name.)
Rosa sauce is a creamy tomato sauce that’s a beautiful rosy color. Not quite the white sauce I had envisioned, but it was close enough.
I didn’t have a recipe to use with this rosa sauce, but I went to Bertolli’s website and found their recipe for oven-baked four cheese rigatoni pasta.
This recipe has a few more ingredients than the baked ziti, but it can all be ready to mix with the hot rigatoni after the hot pasta is drained. The egg and ricotta give this dish a nice creamy texture, and I loved it when the sauce got caught in the ziti and popped into my mouth when I bit it. Yum.
I really liked this sauce and the recipe and will make it again. I especially liked it at the dinner because it was a nice complement to the other dishes that were made with tomato sauce.
A salad and crunchy bread will complete this meatless meal as well.
And while you’re sitting at the dinner table, make sure to talk to your children about their day at school. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your child over a plate of pasta!
Oven-Baked Four Cheese Rigatoni Rosa
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 oz.)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
- 8 ounces rigatoni or large tube pasta, cooked, drained
- 1 jar Bertolli® Four Cheese Rosa Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Toss hot rigatoni with sauce in large bowl. Stir in ricotta mixture. Turn into 11 x 7-inch baking dish, then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Bake covered 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is melted.
Easy Baked Ziti
- 1 (28 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ozs.)
- 5 cups hot cooked ziti (about 3 cups uncooked)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Can be made in advance, refrigerated and then cooked.