I’m not sure if this is blatantly obvious, but I love food/cooking. Adore it, in fact. And nothing bolsters my foodie self-esteem like a person trying something I’ve made, going “Yummm”, then saying, “Where did you buy this?” Yes, moments like those make late nights on my feet in the kitchen after a 9 or 10 hour day absolutely worth the effort.
So it always seems to strike people as strange when they see me microwaving a Lean Cuisine in the office kitchen, forcing me to admit that I never bring the leftovers from my precious dinners in for lunch the next day. Why? Well, aside from the fact that the dinners I make aren’t always diet-friendly (I just eat smaller portions of those dishes), I also find it hard to get excited for dinner leftovers when I’ve already eaten the same. exact. thing. for lunch.
What do all of these weird hang-ups have to do with this dish? Well, friends, this delicious (and vegetarian, for those who care) meal is so delightful that I can eat a portion for lunch AND dinner and never, ever get sick of it.
The flavors are layered in such a way that each bite yields an, “Oh, yum, yum, YUM” response as you taste the Fontina cheese, the zucchini, the escarole, the basil and parsley, and the Parmesan in rapid succession. It was fantastic fresh out of the oven, and, I’d argue, just as good with each subsequent microwave.
I’m so enamored with the ease and delectability of this dish, that I’ve declared it a new go-to for when we have guests (a very special place of honor, indeed, as the criteria are rigid for recipes in this category, since they must be easy to prepare, require little fuss, and appeal to a wide range of eaters).
Baked Pasta with Zucchini and Escarole
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until very al dente, 2 or 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain.
2. Heat 4 cups of prepared tomato sauce in a saucepan. Meanwhile, in a skillet, sauté the escarole with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When wilted, put escarole in a bowl. Sauté the zucchini with 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet, until no longer crisp. Transfer to the bowl with the escarole and set aside.
3. Add chopped basil and parsley to tomato sauce. Then add in the sautéed escarole and zucchini.
4. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and half of the cheeses. Spread in an oiled 3-to-4-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.