Healthier Chicken Baked Ziti

Do you remember that I told you in my last post that there would be lots of simple, easy recipes coming? Well, I like long lists of ingredients and I cannot lie. Quick, fuss-free, two-ingredient recipes might be ok from time to time, but this girl loves cooking and it’s not going to stop just because she’s back to school in less than a week.

Granted, I don’t think I have three hours to make my lunch (quick side note: my lunch = your dinner, in Spain we have our biggest meal at lunchtime, and then a light dinner at the evening), like I’ve been doing during the summer, but that doesn’t mean I have to settle for a tasteless one.
That’s what make-ahead meals are meant for.
Who wouldn’t want a platefull of warm, cheesy comfort food that is also healthy and you can have prepared beforehand? Yes, not me.
Loaded with veggies, cheesy tomato sauce, pieces of grilled chicken tights (that you can omit if you’re vegetarian, this will be a tasty dish anyway) and topped with golden crispy cheese. And there are also some macaroni hidden in there, but not too many because I’m not the biggest fan of pasta in pasta dishes… that’s a fun one. But if you do like pasta, feel free to add as much as your little heart desires. Or you can also omit it altogether for a low-carb, diabetic-friendly version… It tastes awesome anyways. But don’t omit the cheese, because:
Cheese > Everything Else
It makes pretty much everything better, and this bake is not an exception.
BUT. I did not need to put loads and loads of cheese in here to make it creamy… Thanks to my favourite ingredient ever (aka greek yogurt) and a bit of strong tasting cheese (hooray for manchego), this stuff is both cheesetastic and creamy without the extra calories. Win.
And don’t lie to me: excited as (most of) you are about fall and pumpkin flavoured everything, you still have LOADS of summer produce to use up. Am I right or am I right?
Baked Ziti is the way to go: summer vegetable goodness and fall comfort food in the same dish. And you can make it ahead and eat it when you get home hungry from school. It makes me want to cry with joy.
Here’s the only con. This tastes so darn good that when I’m at school, it makes me think about how much I feel like going home so I can devour this for lunch… and it kinda distracts myself from learning.
I’ll have to work on that.
Ingredients:
1 onion
2 eggplants
1 large zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
3 cloves of garlic
5 tomatoes
a pinch of sugar
1/2 cup of fat free greek yogurt
40 gr. strong shredded cheese (such as manchego or parmesan)
250 gr. cooked wholewheat pasta
250 gr. cooked leftover chicken (I used grilled tights)
herbs de provence, salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for the pan
120 gr. shredded strong cheese (for the topping)
Chop all your vegetables, except the tomatoes. Heat some olive oil in a pan and pan-fry the onion until fragant. Add the rest of chopped vegetables (not the tomato) and keep on frying until they all look almost done. Add meat, and keep on frying for a minute more or so.
Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes until you get pure. Add a pinch of sugar (other sweeteners might work) to make it less acidic and mix. Add the tomato pure to the pan and fry until most of the juice has been absorbed/evaporated. Now, add yogurt and cheese and stir to mix. Season to taste, cook for 2 minutes more and remove pan from heat.
Pour mixture into a baking-safe dish and top it with shredded cheese and more spices to taste if desired.
Bake at 200ºC until cheese is golden and melty. This should take about 10 minutes, since the filling is already cooked.
You can either make everything ahead and refrigerate it when it’s done (it tastes lovely reheated) or make just the filling ahead and right before you want to eat it, you top it with cheese and bake until golden. It’s just 10 minutes, so that’s a nice option as well!
Now let’s talk about some substitutions:
-If you don’t happen to have grilled chicken on hand, you can use whichever other meat you prefer or just omit it altogether. Most of times I make this, I go the vegetarian route, but I just happened to have some chicken to use up this time.
-Do not use light cheese instead of a strong one. I mean, you’re entitled to do so, but it won’t taste cheesy at all… and you know cheesy stuff is better.
-You can omit greek yogurt if you wish. I like how it adds creaminess, protein and probiotics but some people find yogurt in their pasta disgusting (weird, right? how do you find greek yogur disgusting?). It’ll taste nice anyways.
-250 gr. cooked pasta is not much. If you like pasta, you should add a bit more, because mum thought that this wasn’t pasta with veggies but veggies with pasta (I like it that way).
That’s all, I hope you all enjoy it!
Consuelo x

3 Comments

  • Reply Vicky and Ruth September 10, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Me parece que voy a hacer esta receta esta noche para cenar (ya sabes que aqui en USA, la cena es mas fuerte que la comida). Me encanta que hayas añadido muchas verduras y poca pasta y el queso manchego… Todo sabe mejor con queso manchego. Disfruta de la ultima semana de vacaciones.

  • Reply Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner September 14, 2013 at 4:04 am

    Loving this version of ziti! I love the classic ziti but sometimes it’s boring. The protein and veggies here are awesome. Here in the states we eat our heavy meal at night, but I’d eat this for lunch or dinner. 🙂

    • Reply Consuelo September 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you so much, Tina! I’m so glad you like it! Have a nice weekend 😀

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