It’s no secret around here that I love sweets.
But, believe it or not, I do actually consume savory foods, too. You know, on occasion.
Pizzagna = pizza + lasagna.
It’s a Rachael Ray recipe that I discovered on the Food Network when I was a naive young whippersnapper with unrefined tastes. I actually wrinkled my nose at it the first time because I’d never experienced Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before and didn’t expect it to be so…un-Velveeta-like.
Embarrassing, but true.
Then, somehow, even after writing off this recipe too distinguished for 14-year-old me, I found myself craving it again, Parmigiano-Reggiano and all. I hesitantly made it a second time with a few adjustments…
And I loved it.
I don’t know if my taste buds finally matured or what, but ever since, Pizzagna has been my favorite meal. It’s comfort food with a twist. It’s warm, gooey, a little spicy, and full of texture. From the al dente noodles swimming in tomato sauce to the browned, melted cheese blanketing the top, it’s perfect and perfectly craveworthy. Even if it took 14-year-old me awhile to figure that out.
March happens to be my birthday month, so to celebrate another year of life (and a palate that has, thankfully, matured since junior high!), I’m featuring “a few of my favorite things” all month long. I’ve already made it [crystal] clear that Puppy Chow holds the #1 spot in my heart, with Vanilla Bean Cupcakes coming in second, but there are several favorites that I haven’t shared with you yet and am excited to post!
And this one is definitely one of my favorite things.
If dessert didn’t exist, Pizzagna would totally top the list.
After making this recipe countless times over the past decade or so, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit to find the right balance of pasta, filling, and blistered cheese coating. My version is lighter on the pasta and heavier on the pepperoni than Rachael Ray’s, and it tips the scales on the fresh mozzarella, my favorite part!
You can use mozzarella of the pre-bagged, shredded variety, but if there is fresh mozzarella available within a 30-mile radius of your kitchen, please splurge on the good stuff! This recipe just isn’t the same without it.
Same goes for the Parmigiano-Reggiano; it’s not as crucial as the fresh mozzarella, but it’s worth the extra splurge.
Since this can easily become a pretty heavy meal, I like to use turkey pepperoni, fat-free ricotta cheese, and whole-wheat penne pasta to keep things on the healthier side. The cheeses and seasonings are where the real flavor comes from, so those are the ingredients I’m extra generous with. I doubled several of the original quantities because I prefer more filling and less pasta.
This stuff is the best! I make it year-round because I love it so much, but it’s really suited to this time of year, when we’re in the middle of winter and those of us up here in the frozen tundra are still hibernating. Pizzagna: the perfect hibernation food.
- 1 box (12 oz.) pasta of choice--I like Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Penne Rigate
- 2 cups (16 oz.) fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 package (6 oz.) turkey pepperoni
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
- 16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, such as Bel Gioioso, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. ground oregano
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- Preheat broiler.
- Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan to prepare pasta, following package directions.
- Meanwhile, combine ricotta, Parmigiano-reggiano, pepperoni, and parsley in a large bowl, mixing well with a spoon.
- Cook pasta to al dente. (Test it with a fork if you're unsure.) Before draining pasta, ladle two scoops of starchy pasta water into cheese mixture to melt it.
- Preheat broiler.
- Drain pasta and mix into cheese mixture. Spread into a 9x13 baking dish.
- Pour crushed tomatoes over the pasta mixture, and top evenly with sliced fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly and serve hot.
If possible, buy pre-sliced fresh mozzarella. It saves a lot of time and effort!
If you're not into spicy foods, leave out the cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes or sprinkle them in smaller amounts.
Total Fat: 19.9 g
Cholesterol: 88 mg
Sodium: 901.4 mg
Potassium: 303.6 mg
Total Carbs: 43 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.6 g
Sugars: 1.8 g
Protein: 32.3 g