Monday, August 20, 2012

[Gluten-Free] Zesty Baked Ziti

A Tale of Two Zitis 

My husband, Patrick, is quite the cook. He comes from a big Cajun family where there is never a shortage of amazing food. Just like my family, their gatherings revolve around lively conversations and what's on the dinner table. Homemade "delicousness."

Patrick is a natural when it comes to cooking and grilling, two prized talents that came in very handy while we were dating. As two college kids, good home-cooked meals were pretty hard to come by (for 2 years I lived in a place with no kitchen!). But somehow, Patrick always managed to surprise me with a good meal. 

But there is one that sticks out in my mind... it has come to be known as "Patrick's Ziti." A simple and blissful combination of pasta, meat, sauce, and ooey gooey cheese that makes enough to feed a small village. His college buddy first showed him how to make it, but Patrick added his own twist to make it even better!

When I told him I wanted to try to make a healthier and gluten-free version of his famous ziti, he was very supportive. But when I told him that I wanted to replace the pork sausage and ground beef that he uses with humble ground turkey... he was skeptical to say the least. 

I knew there was a lot on the line. "Patrick's Ziti" had been a tasty part of our relationship for almost 9 years. But I was up for the challenge.  

So, how did I do? Let's just say, after Patrick ate his entire plate of ziti, he stuck his fork straight into the baking dish for more! And that's how my gluten-free Zesty Baked Ziti was born!

[Gluten-Free] Zesty Baked Ziti
Whoa mama, is this one good! The zesty combination of spices makes ground turkey the star of this ziti show. This dish is easy to make and will make your taste buds say “Mama Mia!”

Makes 8 servings

For the turkey:
1 pound ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon ground cumin

For the pasta and sauce:
1 (16 oz) bag of gluten-free ziti or penne pasta  
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
1 (24 oz) jar gluten-free marinara sauce 
1 rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 ¼ cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese, separated
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup basil, chopped

            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
            In a large bowl, combine turkey, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and cumin. Mix well and set aside. 
            Fill a large stockpot with water (about 4 ½ quarts) and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon salt to the water. Add pasta, stir, and cook according to package instructions. 
            Meanwhile, in a large saut√© pan, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add seasoned ground turkey and cook, stirring often, until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add wine, sauce, rosemary sprig, and bay leaf. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Remove rosemary sprig and bay leaf. 
           When pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and place into a 9x13 baking dish. Add sauce mixture to pasta and mix well. Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese and mix in. Sprinkle the top evenly with parmesan cheese, the remaining ¼ cup mozzarella cheese and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Use a spatula to lightly press down. Bake until cheese is melted, 12-14 minutes. Garnish with basil.  Enjoy!!

recipe courtesy:

Lauren Marie’s Tips:
*If I am just making this for my husband and me, I cut the recipe in half (makes 4 servings).  Instead of using a 9x13 baking dish, I use an 8x8 baking dish or a 9-inch glass pan. It tastes just as great and I have enough for dinner and an easy, tasty lunch for both of us the next day!

*Gluten-free pasta has come a long way over the past couple years. There are some really good options out there. My favorites are Jovial and DeBoles (for angel hair pasta) 

Here are my gluten-free pasta cooking tips:
        -To make sure you avoid "clumping" the pasta, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the boiling water and give the pasta a big stir when you fist put it in the pot.  
        -Set a timer! You don't want to overcook gluten-free pasta, it turns to mush! And just a heads up - gluten-free pasta cooks longer than other pastas.
        -Short gluten-free pastas (pennes, spirals, etc) seem to stick together more. For those, I stir the pasta 2 more times throughout the cooking process.
        -Always taste the pasta before you strain it to make sure its cooked how you like it.


  1. Looks delish! Where do you find that pasta brand? I've been using brown rice pasta for some time now and it's pretty good, but the nutty flavor of it doesn't always go with certain recipes.

  2. Hey Steph! Thanks for the comment! I can usually find that brand at Nutrition Smart, Greenwise, or Whole Foods. I really like it because the texture is really nice. I find that this brand of pasta doesn't have so much of that nutty flavor which makes it very versatile when it comes to different types of recipes.