Friday, April 24, 2009

Baked Ziti

This is sort of like an Italian version of macaroni and cheese. Basically, it is the same idea as mac and cheese except it has tomato sauce and different types of cheese. I made this last week with the extra ricotta, mozzarella and ground beef from the manicotti I made on April 16. I made that manicotti for us and for a family in our neighborhood where the mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She had to have surgery... One of our mutual friends from D's school set up a schedule of people to make dinners for the family over the course of the month of April. My best availability was after April 15 so I got to make my meal on April 16! The family was very appreciative and it made me feel really good to do something nice for someone. I think everyone involved was really happy to do it. Here is the recipe for the Baked Ziti:


1 pound dried ziti pasta
Kosher salt
3 1/2 cups

QUICK MARINARA SAUCE, recipe follows
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the marinara sauce, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the pecorino, and the cubed mozzarella pieces. Season with the black pepper and red pepper to taste, and mix until well combined. Transfer the pasta to an oiled 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 1/2 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-ounce can), roughly chopped
Sprig of fresh thyme
Sprig of fresh basil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. Use now, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups.