My household contains 5 people. My youngest son barely eats anything at all, my husband is not an experimenter, and my grandfather can go either way just like my older son and I. So when I am in the mood to try a new recipe I always fear wasting food. There’s almost nothing worse than making a delightfully looking meal and it just going in the trash or sitting in the fridge for a thousand years.
Then I thought what if it didn’t have to go to waste?! What if I could make something new out of it? Light bulb!! That’s exactly what I decided to do when I made Cheesy Baked Ziti for the first time. After it’s first go around and I let people have ample time to eat leftovers I thought it’s time to switch it up. Practically most of the dish was left anyway and I wasn’t about to throw it away. Thus, my Italian Vegetable Beef Soup was born.
Cheesy Baked Ziti
A yummy, flavorful baked pasta casserole with an Italian flare. If you love cheese, you’ll love this dish! Serves 6-8 people
- 12 oz. ziti pasta
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1.5 lb ground beef
- 2 (15 oz) cans crushed tomatoes w. Italian herbs
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1.5 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 8 oz shredded mozzarella (I used Rumiano Cheese)
- 1/3 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and cook ziti according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat saute the onion in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add in beef and cook until in crumbles and no longer pink. Drain any grease from the mixture and return to the pan.
- Stir in tomatoes, oregano, sugar, and 1 tsp salt to the meat mixture. Simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a separate large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and combine with butter. Continuously whisk for about two minutes. Slowly, whisk in milk and increase heat to medium. Constantly whisk the mixture for 5-7 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Parmesan, pepper, and remaining salt. Combine sauce with pasta, thoroughly coating it.
- Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Place pasta mixture into the dish and top with beef mixture, mozzarella, and breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and melted. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
The Cheesy Baked Ziti was oh so, well, cheesy. I love cheese. This dish however was made at a time when most people were out of the house so my grandfather and I were the only ones there to enjoy it. It sat in the fridge for a couple days with no takers so it was time for my Italian Vegetable Beef Soup.
Italian Vegetable Beef Soup
A comforting combination beef, squash, zucchini, and other veggies makes this a great go to meal for chilly days. The aroma of Italian spices and cheese gooeyness will keep you coming back for more.
- remainder of Cheesy Baked Ziti (Keep in mind I had a lot of the original dish left. I took all the meat/cheese and some of the noodles.)
- 2 squash, sliced
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- cup of baby carrots
- 6-8 cups chicken broth
- cup of fresh green beans, snapped
- optional: I threw in a can of Progresso Light Italian Style Meatball Soup since I had it hanging around
I didn’t need to add spices, meat, pasta, tomatoes, cheese, or onions because that was taken care of with the Cheesy Baked Ziti. Can we say simple?!
- In a large soup pot combine broth and vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add in the ziti and canned soup. Bring back to a boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally.
My Italian Vegetable Beef Soup was a huge hit. Everyone loved it. Well, the ones of us that eat that sort of thing. The best part is if there are any leftover of this it can be easily frozen. But this got gobbled up in no time and sadly none is in my freezer right now. It was great being able to turn one meal into two. Saves food, money, and time!
What’s your favorite thing to make with leftovers?