Sneaky Baked Ziti
This looks and tastes just like a traditional, decadent baked ziti casserole, yet boasts hidden veggies, extra protein, and fiber from a super secret ingredient…tofu.
Not a big fan? Hear me out. The same blandness that can make tofu hard to love for the uninitiated, makes it incredibly versatile! Tofu is like the secret agent of protein—it can sneak into almost any dish in disguise and go undetected. Plus, because high-fiber, low-fat tofu bears a striking resemblance to its higher fat twin, mozzarella cheese, you can slip it in and replace at least one-third of the cheese used in traditional baked zitis. And your kids won’t even know the difference!
This recipe really passes the sneaky chef challenge, and none of the taste testers could identify any of the hidden additions. In fact, they proclaimed it the best baked ziti in town! My daughter Emily requested this to be served at her eighth birthday party, and although it was a bit more work than ordering in the usual pizza, my daughters gobbled it up.
Ingredients (Makes 8 to 10 servings)
1-pound ziti or rigatoni noodles (whole wheat preferred)
1 cup firm tofu, mashed well or pureed in a food processor (1/2 of a 14-ounce block)
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup Orange Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe below)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 13-by-9 glass baking dish with oil.
Cook pasta according to package directions until slightly firm. Drain and place in the prepared baking dish. Mix tofu, tomato sauce, and Orange Puree in a bowl. Toss pasta with the sauce mixture and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top the pasta with a combination of the Parmesan and the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, sprinkling evenly over the top. Cover ziti with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Sneaky Chef Make-Ahead Recipe: Orange Puree
1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and rough chopped
3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
2-3 tablespoons water
In a medium pot, cover carrots and potatoes with cold water and boil for about 20 minutes until yams, and especially carrots, are very tender. If the carrots aren’t thoroughly cooked, they’ll leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables, which will reveal their presence (a gigantic no-no for the sneaky chef).
Drain the potatoes and carrots and put them in the food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth; no pieces of carrots or potatoes should remain. Stop occasionally to push the contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the third tablespoon of water to make a smooth puree, but the less water the better. This makes about 2 cups of puree. Double the recipe if you want to store another cup of puree. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days, or freeze 1/4 cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.