Monday, January 16, 2012

Swiss Chard Baked Ziti

After the new year, all you seem to hear everyone talk about is the self-enforced diet they are going on as part of their resolution. New year, clean & healthy start which usually means cutting out those dreaded carbs.  Like many others, I've tried dropping those carbs in the past usually around this time of the year. But, honestly I am weak when it comes to carbs. I adore rice, bread, noodles, and pasta!

What I have tried to do instead is to substitute regular pasta for whole wheat pasta or farro for white grains if possible. I also found that substituting hearty vegetables to be a good way of reducing portion sizes but still keeping you full.

Baked ziti is something that I was introduced to by one of my oldest childhood friends. I have memories of sleepovers and snowstorms at her house where her mother would have it baked and ready for us to eat. It was an anomaly at our household since my parents hated pasta and cheese. So whenever I went to her house and found out it was on the menu for dinner that night, I did a mental skip and "yippee!" The gooey cheese and creamy marinara sauce was just the perfect home-cooked meal for me next to spaghetti and meatballs.

So over this long weekend, when chatting with a friend of mine who mentioned she was making some for lunch, the lightbulb flashed. Baked ziti! I literally hadn't had it in years and it was so simple to execute. Perfect for this bone-chilling weather!

If you don't have Swiss chard on hand, feel free to substitute it with spinach, kale or really any vegetable of your choice.

Full disclosure that this dish is not entirely "healthy". However, it is a way to enjoy your pasta in a more guilt-free manner.

Serves 4-6

2 cups ziti or penne
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp fennel seed
1/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups Swiss chard, quartered
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup basil leaves, sliced
1 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grana padano cheese
1 medium size mozzarella ball
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium pot over medium high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Then, add pasta and cook until al dente approximately 5-10 minutes. Drain and do not rinse pasta so the starch allows the sauce to stick.

2. In another medium pot, add oil over medium high heat. Add next 5 ingredients and cook for a few minutes until onions are slightly brown, but garlic not burnt.

3. Add marinara, mix together and bring to boil before lowering to low heat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the sauce to come together.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Add pasta to sauce and mix together. Then add basil, grana padano, 1/2 cup Parmesan and salt+pepper to taste. Mix again.

6. Pour all into buttered casserole dish. Top with rest of Parmesan and slices of mozzarella. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and slightly brown.

7. Remove from oven. Let cool for a few minutes so it is easier to cut. Cut into individual squares and use a pie server to move to plate. Top with a basil sprig and additional grated Parmesan.


  1. what a great idea to combine swiss chard and baked ziti.

  2. Thanks Andrea! Let me know if you try it and what your thoughts are. Have a great Super Bowl Sunday!!

  3. This looks great! Do you think you could add ground beef to it? Have you tried it?