Thursday, January 20, 2011

Southwestern Baked Ziti

Serves 8-10

16 oz ziti pasta
2 - 10oz cans Rotel tomatoes
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (or monterey jack, or a combo of the two)
3/4 - 1 cup ranch dressing
1 lb. ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper


Boil pasta as directed for "al dente". Brown ground beef with garlic, green pepper and onion, adding seasonings after beef is about halfway browned but still pink. Stir well to combine. Drain pasta and pour into large greased baking dish. Mix in tomatoes, 2 cups of cheese, beef and ranch dressing. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted.

This is one of those recipes that I came up with on a night when we were short on time and overdue for a grocery trip so I needed to use things we had in the house already. I always have ground beef in the freezer and I always have cheddar cheese, ranch dressing and canned tomatoes on hand so this was what I decided to try out and it was delicious! I decided to give it a Southwestern flair when my eyes landed on the cumin and Cajun seasoning in my pantry. Then after I stirred the cheese, ziti, tomatoes and beef together, I felt like it needed something creamy but I didn't have any sour cream so I decided to try ranch dressing. That turned out to be a great idea because this casserole was SO delicious and even my kids loved it! If you don't like onions and/or peppers, you can always leave those out if you wanted. Also adding a can of corn is delicious, it adds a nice crunchy sweetness to it. You can experiment with different cheeses and if you don't like too much spice you can use regular diced tomatoes, but the mild Rotel was perfect for us. This took only about 45 minutes from start to finish...SO easy, so fast and definitely delicious. Doesn't get much better than that! ;)