Friday, January 4, 2013

Baked Garden Mostaccioli

Funny how the older I get, the more I crave things that as a child, personally, I would cringe at.  Meaning my vegetables.  Oh you name it with each and every veggie and me at 6 years old would get that panicky look in my eyes and begin profusely shaking my head from side to side.  Nothing short of sheer determination to prove that such an atrocity should never be brought upon the likes of me.  From lima beans to zucchini and with every other kind in between, I did not eat my vegetables.  I was a table camper.  Meaning, that I sat there until my poor nutrient aiding Mother became too fed up with me.  Oh yeah, there was never any giving in on my part.  No sirree, I stuck it out at that table each and every night for the long haul.....never eating my vegetables. Now here I am at 31 years of age, incorporating as many veggies as I can into each and every dish because I just can't get enough of them.  And sometimes I add in so many that I must exclude the meat to fit them all in.  And that has become just fine by me.

1-2 T. of extra virgin olive oil
1 large zucchini (sliced and quartered into 1 1/2" pieces)
1/2 a large green sweet pepper (diced)
1 clove of garlic (minced)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
3oz. (1/2 a can) of tomato paste
1- 24oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Prego Original)
1 T. of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley (chopped)
1 lb. of mostaccioli pasta (uncooked)
1 cup of 5 Italian cheese's with a touch of Philadelphia (shredded)
1 cup of mozzarella cheese (shredded)

-Preheat your oven to 350*.  Spray the inside of a large deep casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside.  Start your pasta water to boil in a large covered stockpot.  In a large saucepan, heat up your e.v.o. over a medium-high heat.  Once you can smell it good, toss in your zucchini and your sweet peppers with a nice sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Saute until softened and just beginning to brown, then toss in your garlic.  Once you can smell the garlic good (about 20-30 seconds), you can stir in the tomato paste, sauce and fresh parsley.  Bring this to a boil and then reduce the heat (while stirring often).  Meanwhile, once your stockpot of water reaches a rapid boil, add in about 1 T. of e.v.o. and a pinch of salt (this not only flavors the pasta itself, but also keeps it from sticking together).  Boil the pasta for 9 minutes (you want it just a tad bit more Au dente so that it doesn't overcook in the baking process).  Once your pasta is done you can strain out the water, while keeping the pasta still in the stockpot, and add in your sauce and veggies.  Stir well to coat and then fold in the 1 cup of 5 Italian cheese's.  Spoon this out into your sprayed casserole dish, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese all over the top, cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350* for about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is all melted.  Remove from oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

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