So, last night I had a brainstorm. I pulled some of the ricotta out of the fridge and tried my hand at making a baked chicken ziti. The pasta bake came out creamy and cheesy and is definitely going to be going into our regular dinner rotation. :)
baked chicken ziti
1 cup penne pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1/4 inch strips)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
16 ounces crushed tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons parmesan-romano cheese, grated
In a large pot, cook the penne pasta in well-salted water to an al dente firmness. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
Drizzle 1 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil onto a large skillet and heat on medium-high. Add the chicken and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned, approximately 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and transfer to a plate.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil onto the same skillet that you used for the chicken. Heat on medium-low. Add the diced onion and minced garlic. Cook, stirring as needed, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir together and bring the sauce to a boil.
Once the sauce reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring as needed, until the sauce thickens slightly, roughly 8-10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together the penne pasta and ricotta cheese.
NOTE: I baked the pasta in two 9"x6" stoneware baking pans, but you can also use one 9"x13" baking pan. The instructions that follow are for one pan, but if you use two smaller ones like I did, ,just split everything in half and divide it between the two pans.
Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of a 9"x13" stoneware baking dish. Spread the pasta and ricotta mixture on top of the sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the pasta and then layer the chicken on top. Spread the remaining sauce on top of the chicken. Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella and then add the grated the parmesan-romano on top.
Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbling and the cheese is melted, approximately 15-20 minutes.