Baked Ziti

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A to Z Challenge (Letter Z): Ziti

When I knew last year that I would be doing this challenge for my food blog, I was not going to be cooking baked Ziti. I wanted to cook Zopf, a Swiss holiday bread, which look almost identical to Challah bread. But, then my grandfather passed away and I couldn’t work up the motivation to try something new so I cooked something old instead.

You can style Baked Ziti like lasagna, and layer it with all the goodies, but my Ziti is more just to shovel sauce in my mouth on a carb caravan of noodles. If you’re looking for the best spaghetti sauce ever, click here to try out my grandma Maggio’s sauce, hands down, the best.

This particular Ziti I’m sharing is a lazy Ziti. Ziti is the noodle’s name, it’s a smooth pasta tube cut at about 2 inches long. However, I am not a fan of ziti noodles and prefer rigatoni, which are ziti noodles with ridges. Rigatoni style noodles are more popular in Sicily anyhow and that is where my [some] of my ancestors hail from. So, Baked Ziti is more the style of the dish because no one calls it Baked Rigatoni.

Baked Ziti

Special Ingredients: Ziti noodles (or Rigatoni)
Special Tools: Colander/Sieve (for draining noodles), Casserole dish

Preheat oven to 350F

THE NOODLES

In a pot bring water to a boil, then reduce and add:

  • 1 lb Ziti noodles (or Rigatoni if you’d like your sauce to adhere better)

Drain water, set noodles aside.

THE SAUCE

If you want the BEST sauce, click here for my Grandma Maggio’s recipe. Or follow along below with my lazy sauce:

Using your noodle pot, add

  • 2 tbsp oil (olive)

When the oil is hot add:

  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (3 pods)
  • 1 onion, chopped (white, preferred)

When onions are soft (5-7 minutes) add:

  • 1 lb Italian sausage
    (I used Italian turkey sausage and removed it from it’s casing)

When sausage is browned (5-7 minutes), add:

  • 2, 14.5 oz cans Tomato Sauce
    (I use O Organics from Safeway, it doesn’t have corn syrup which gives this slight over-sweet taste I don’t prefer)
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix, taste, adjust the salt level per your personal taste (I don’t add extra salt) and allow to heat through (5-7 minutes).

THE CHEESE

You have three options with the cheese:

You can do ricotti cheese, if you’d like to make your own ricotti click here the recipe is very simple. Ricotta, you’ll want about 2 cups (16oz).

or you can be lazy… 1 cup yogurt + 2 cup shredded Italian cheese, or 1 cup sour cream + 2 cup shredded Italian cheese. I use whatever I have on had on that particular day.

THE LAYERS

In a casserole dish (no lid needed), layer:

  • Cooked noodles
  • Cheese
  • Sauce

Repeat and top (optional) with Italian shredded cheese of your choice.

Cook 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.

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