If you are doing a dinner swap, you want to cook recipes that have easy prep and are fairly inexpensive.  You are making numerous dishes of the same meal, so soups, stews, pasta bakes, and meals like that work really well.


I made this Baked Ziti with homemade sauce to cut down the cost of each meal.  The quality jarred sauces are pricey, and making your own is much cheaper, and even tastes better! If I were making one dish, I’d probably just buy a jar of sauce.


Baked Ziti


For the sauce:


1 tablespoon olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 large can whole tomatoes

1/4 cup red wine

2-3 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (basil, thyme, rosemary, organo)

salt and pepper, to taste

big handful of fresh basil


In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and stir.  Crush tomatoes with your hand, and then add them to the skillet (you can make the sauce as chunky or smooth as you like).   Add the wine, sugar (to taste), a big pinch of salt, a little pepper, Italian seasoning, and a about a tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, and let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes.


If you are preparing 6 batches, like I did, make sure your pot is big enough! haha.  Also, I used an immersion blender to crush up the tomatoes.  When making one batch, it’s not worth the time of getting out the thing out, but for 6 large cans of tomatoes, it is.



For the casserole:


8 ounces whole wheat ziti, rotini, or any tube shaped pasta (I can never seem to find ziti in my Walmart)
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 jar quality marinara, or 1 batch homemade sauce


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until almost done and then drain.


In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and half the mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.


In the bottom of a shallow casserole dish, spread half the tomato sauce. Top with ziti, then ricotta mixture and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Just set it up like an assembly line and it goes really fast!


Cover and freeze OR bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes.