Meatless Fridays at

I don't know about you, but the daily struggle with my kids about dinner is getting me down. It's the end of winter, we're no longer craving those baked or stewed comfort meals, and I think it's time for a change of pace. The trouble is, in Ohio, nature is still celebrating winter, so planning barbecues isn't happening yet at my house. Thus, I am trying to create a happy balance between what makes my children happy (kid food), the budget, and what makes me happy (not kid food). This dish is the perfect balance, and it's meatless, so it's perfect for Lent.

This recipe is easy enough for my oldest sons to make in their apartments, and then I modified it a little. If you have high school age children, it's probably simple enough for one to prepare in your shoes, if you're out with another child or children, or just delegating. It's tasty, budget-friendly, and kid-friendly, so a win all around.

Serve with some garlic bread and a green salad, or hot vegetable for an easy meal.

Skillet Baked Ziti skillet baked ziti

1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. dried red chili flakes (more if you like it spicy)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
2 t. sugar
Salt to taste
1 1/2 t. dried Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups uncooked ziti
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella, depending on how much cheese you like
A bunch of basil, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and red chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, sugar, and a pinch of salt; reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add the broth and Italian seasoning and return to a simmer. Add pasta and cover; cook according to package directions for just firm (12-15 minutes).

Remove lid, season with salt and pepper, and stir in Parmesan. Sprinkle mozzarella over top of pasta. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 8-10 minutes.

Sprinkle with basil and serve hot.

(If you are using a pan that has a plastic handle, cover handle with foil before placing it in the oven.)

Copyright 2014 Barbara Stein