Yummy Baked Pasta Casserole for AHG

Grace’s AHG Cooking badge requires Explorer Level girls to make an easy casserole for family dinner time!  We found an easy recipe that involved pasta and cheese, and then added some ground beef and spices  – ingredients that are always well received in the Garner household!  Grace followed the directions, and did all of the work herself!  Mom hovered, and took lots of pictures (how annoying!) except I didn’t get a picture of the finished casserole…of course, it didn’t last long either.  Easy and delicious!

 

Ingredients:
1 jar of Pasta Sauce (26 oz) *
1.5 cups of water  (we used a can of V8 for extra nutrition)
15 oz container Ricotta Cheese
2 c shredded Mozzarella cheese (divided)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
8 oz uncooked Ziti pasta (we used Penne)
1 lb ground beef
garlic and onions to taste
fresh basil leaves ( a handful)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. 

Brown ground beef, and drain on paper towels.  In a saute pan, brown minced garlic and chopped onions in a little olive oil.  Set aside.  

In large bowl combine Pasta Sauce and water or V8, spices, ** add Ricotta cheese, and 1 cup of Mozzarella and the Parmesan, mix well, then add uncooked pasta . 

Lightly spray a 13×9 casserole dish with olive oil, then spoon the pasta mixture into the dish.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 55 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove foil, and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese;  return uncovered casserole to oven and bake 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

We rarely buy pasta sauce because they are loaded with sugar, and frequently overpriced.  We make our own from a large can of crushed tomatoes and a 15 oz can of petite fire-roasted diced tomatoes, this time I had scored a great deal on a discontinued line of Newman’s Own.  

** If we are tired, and don’t feel like making a salad, we often add frozen spinach leaves (or wilted fresh) to our pasta sauce for a boost of vitamins and a nutritionally complete one dish meal.  Simply mix in a one or two large handfuls of washed fresh spinach leaves in step two with the pasta sauce, or as much as a cup or so of frozen spinach if you buy it in resealable bags (my favorite way to keep spinach).   The Garner kids are happy to eat spinach this way because the flavor is barely discernible.

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