Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Recipe for Baked Ziti
This recipe--in various incarnations--has been in my family for years. This super simple but oh-so-tasty dish is perfect for Sunday (or any day!) dinner on one of those chilly days--when you crave the comfort of a one-meal dish that will leave all you and your guests sated. As in most recipes, this is a base: you should vary it according to you/your guests' food preferences. I'm lucky enough to live near a great place that makes homemade mozzarella--and Italian-style cheese and parsley sausage, and homemade ricotta. (Quality of ingredients is always important!) This being said, this recipe still makes mighty flavorful baked ziti--even when some of the items are not homemade. Serve with a leafy green salad (I just made it with baby spinach, orange sections, toasted unsalted cashews, and a light vinaigrette) and your favorite crusty Italian bread, fresh grated parmesan, and--for the 21-and-over crowd--your favorite Italian red wine.
Mix cooked sausage and pasta in with ricotta mixture and add 1 cup of the sauce. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with 2 more cups of the sauce, and the mozzarella.
Makes about 8 to 10 servings
1 pound dried ziti pasta
1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings, crumbled and browned, (or 1 pound ground beef, crumbled and browned)
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese (or, if you can find homemade ricotta, that's even better!)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups homemade or best-quality (your favorite!) marinara sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste
Fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside.
Mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 1 and 1/2 cups chopped mozzarella, and parmesan in a large bowl.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, cut, and serve.