Recipe: Baked Ziti

It seems like everyone has a recipe for baked ziti, and there’s 75 million varieties.  Somehow before today, I had never made it myself.  Overall, it turned out quite tasty.  Very much like most other Italian pasta dishes (lasagna, etc.), but the rosemary made all the difference in my opinion.  The meal is not the simplest thing to make, but it’s not terribly difficult or complicated –  just lots of steps.

Simply Recipes Baked Ziti

Ingredients:
– 16 oz ziti (or penne) pasta
– olive oil
– 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef, pork, or turkey
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or basil), minced (I used rosemary, but I’m excited to try the basil at some point)
– 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
– 1 large 32 oz jar of marinara sauce (I only used 24 oz because that’s all I could find… probably worth putting the extra sauce in next time)
– 1/2 pound (8oz) of grated mozzarella cheese
– 1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1 Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water. Add the pasta and boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm. Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.  (The olive oil didn’t help much in the sticking-pasta-situation, but the pasta all mixes together with the sauce and cheese in the end anyway, so no biggie.)

2 Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high to heat. When the oil is hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Do not crowd the pan (work in batches if needed). Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well. Don’t stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, add a little salt.  (You can start this step while the pasta is boiling, unless you’re like me and you can’t multi-task-cook.)

3 When the meat is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.

4 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese. Ladle in some sauce with the pasta, mix it well and add the pasta into the casserole.

5 Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until the top is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

And here she is baking…

Here she is waiting to be gobbled…

I had to add 5 minutes of broiler time to the 20 minutes of cooking in order to get the top to brown, but play it by ear.  And then I ate.  And went back for seconds.  Yum.  Thank goodness NavyGuy gets back from a trip today or else I’d have the the whole pan gone by Tuesday 🙂

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