When I was about 17 and my brother was about 11 we were both on that hectic sports schedule. I swam on the high school team and my bro played football. I’m not sure what my brother’s practices were like but I busted my tail swimming for two hours a day six days a week after a half hour to an hour of ‘dry land’ warm ups and strength training. Swimming might be nicer on the joints then other forms of exercise but in two hours a day you can log a lot of miles in the water.
The great thing about this schedule… I was burning calories like mad and dropped weight like it was cash. I was so slim and could eat anything without gaining weight. (Unfortunately I am sure I will never be so slim again. And I sure can’t eat anything anymore!) Needless to say when I was done with practice I was HUNGRY; like eat 6 pieces of fruit, three boxes of cereal, and the kitchen sink for a snack on the way home to a hearty dinner, kind of hungry. Cheesy baked ziti was just the dinner I wanted to come home to. Warm (We swam during the fall/winter season, I was always freezing!), comforting, hearty, shovel food! Serve this with a huge salad and all your household athletes (and everyone else) will sure be happy with you.
- 3/4 box (10oz.) of ziti, rigatoni, or penne noodles
- 1 jar (26oz) of your favorite pasta sauce or Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 lb. ground Italian sausage or Italian sausage links
- 1 container (16oz) of ricotta or cottage cheese
- 1 bag (16oz.) shredded cheese (Italian blends, 1/2 mozzarella and 1/2 cheddar, or a mexican blend works well.)
- 1/3 yellow onion diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Splash of olive oil
- Optional: grated parmesan for topping
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium- high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent.
- Add the ground beef and ground sausage to the pan and cook until browned. (If using sausage links, add to the pan first, brown completely, and remove from the pan before adding and browning the beef. Slice the sausage after removing from the pan and set aside.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente directions on the box (usually about 7 min.) stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Drain pasta and run cool water over the pasta to prevent further cooking. Set aside.
- When the meat is fully browned return pasta to large pot, add the meat, cheeses, and sauce to the pot. Mix gently to combine. Pour mixture into a large casserole (9x13) dish and use spoon to smooth the top. Cover with foil.
- Bake covered at 350* for about one hour. Remove foil and top with parmesan if desired. Return to the oven uncovered and cook for another half hour or until the top of pasta is lightly browned and cheese inside is fully melted.
- This recipe comes out great using prepared ingredients like pre-made pasta sauce but is even better when homemade ingredients are used! I highly recommend trying this out with Marcella's sauce.
- If you want to keep this a little lighter use whole grain pasta, lean ground beef, cut the quantity of sausage in half, and use low fat cheese.