Which brings me to the hell-ride that was my local grocery store. I thought - "this would be a nice night to cook" - I thought wrong. Maybe you didn't know this - so let me share my newly acquired knowledge....DO NOT GROCERY SHOP ON THE FRIDAY BEFORE A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Do I sound bitter? I do? Ok then, on to the good news...
Due to the crowd at the grocery store and my indecisiveness - this recipe is a Katie Safrey original. I knew going in to the store that I wanted to make pesto - but when I got too frustrated with the lack of fresh basil, I just grabbed arugula (although, I wasn't sure if the recipe for arugula pesto needed to be modified - walnuts instead of pine nuts? I still have no idea). Then I started thinking about baked ziti - and figured if I made a pesto and mixed it with some fat free ricotta cheese and ziti - then melted some cheese on top - I'd have a healthy-ish masterpiece on my hands. And I gotta tell you....I'm proud of the result.
Arugula is so peppery - it makes a really unique pesto, and the ricotta really helped the pasta to hold moisture and added some creaminess. The beauty of pesto is that you can't screw it up. Too dry? Add more olive oil. Not dry enough? Add more arugula. Needs flavor? Add a bit more parmesan. And always make a double batch of pesto - you can use it for 2-3 days on crackers, in pasta and on chicken breast.
One day when I'm famous with my own cookbook - you'll be demanding this recipe...so without further adieu....
Saf-tastic Arugula Pesto Bake
For the Pesto:
4 cloves of garlic (I love garlic - if you don't, or are making this for a date, reduce this to two cloves)
2 cups of arugula (packed)
1/2 cup parmesan (grated)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper (taste the pesto, if you need salt and pepper - add it to taste)
For the Rest:
1 lb ziti
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 shakes of chili garlic sauce (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Put a pot of salted water on for the pasta. Now it's pesto time - put all ingredients for the pesto in your food processor and combine until smooth (like I said above, if it seems dry add oil). Combine the pesto with the ricotta cheese, red pepper flakes, chili garlic sauce and salt and pepper. Combine the cooked pasta with the pesto/ricotta sauce and mix well - I used a large foil baking dish (same dish you'd use for baked ziti - can you tell this is a pretty informal recipe?). Taste this combination - adjust season based on what your tastebuds are telling you. Top with mozzarella cheese (and if you are on the "ish" side of healthy-ish, top that with a sprinkle of parmesan). Bake for 15 minutes, remove and enjoy with a glass of Pinot Grigio.