Summer Vegetable Baked Pasta

My jealousy becomes me.  Reading about all of the blogging foodies and their home vegetable gardens.  The obscene amounts of summer produce exploding from their carefully seeded and well-kept backyard veg boxes- so to speak.  While I’m over here with no ability to even maintain rosemary.. the herb that apparently can grow (and take over) anywhere you put it.  Pride oozes from their words on my computer screen- and hello.. I would be the same way if I could so much as keep up with the single tomato plant I buy on a yearly basis..and then turn around and chunk it soon after because it hates me and my (lack there of) green thumb.  I remember growing up with a vegetable garden in my backyard- kept beautifully by my mother- surely without the help of me.  Everything from tomatoes to strawberries and watermelon to squash- we had it all.  She would make peach and strawberry jam..and I was the ‘perfect helper’ in softening the wax for sealing the jars for future holiday gifts.  My favorite part was helping with dinner when it was time to ‘prep’ the snap beans.. I would eat half of the bowl before handing it off to my mom for dinner.  (oops)  Those raw beans tasted SO good!  I also will never forget how those tomatoes tasted either.  I think that is why I continue to torture myself every summer by purchasing a plant- hoping to get that flavor in my mouth again.  Oh- and to maybe see one of those massive neon green caterpillars that mom always cursed for eating her tomato plant leaves. Memories.. they are good ones I will never forget.  Of all the seasons-each offering their own unique fruits and vegetables for distinct seasonal flavor- I think summer produce has got it best.   Zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and fresh herbs like basil are predominant in the summer months- easy to find and afforable- making this dish not only appealing to the eyes, but your family’s pocket book, too.  Not quite my momma’s hand-picked veg, but quite tasty- that is for sure!

Summer Vegetable Baked Pasta

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lb (8 ounces) uncooked whole wheat penne
1 tablespoon oil from bottled sundried tomatoes
3 medium yellow squash chopped
2 medium zucchini squash, chopped 
1 medium onion chopped
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups chopped tomato
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sundried tomatoes, drained and rinsed sliced juilienne
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablepoons chopped fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
Preheat oven to 400°.   Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add spinach to pan; cook 30 seconds or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 3/4 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and egg. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon into an 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Nutrition Information:
Serves 6 (1 1/2 cups each)
Calories: 352
Fat: 11.6 g
Carbohydrate: 43 g
Fiber: 7.7 g
Protein: 23.6 g

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