BAKED ZITI (OR PENNE)

Baked Ziti, the Best
Baked Ziti, the Best
And home made Italian bread? Oh, my!
And homemade Italian bread? Oh, my!

Cooler weather is coming, and this is just the Italian feast you’ve been craving all summer.  This is the best ziti I’ve ever made. It’s so similar to my lasagna, but much less work.  If you’re a fan of Italian, I promise you will love it.

Whenever I bring it to a pot luck, it is the first thing to disappear.  I made a triple batch for a wedding rehearsal dinner once, and thankfully, I had the recipe in my head.  Many people asked for it. Right Calene and Rob?

You may think there are a lot of instructions, but it’s only because I’ve tried to thoroughly explain each step.  No worries, each step is very quick.  You will breeze through it, and be so happy, that you’ll start mentioning me in your prayers.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb box ziti or penne

1 lb ground beef or turkey

½ lb Italian sausage, sweet or hot, casings removed

1 medium to large onion, chopped

4-6 cloves garlic, chopped

6 + cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce (homemade is best)

2 cups Ricotta Cheese

1 ½ – 2 cups grated Italian Blend Cheese (divided)

¼ cup each, grated fresh Parmesan and Romano Cheese

Olive oil for drizzling on final layer

PREPARATION: 

Cook pasta, drain, and set aside.

Brown the beef or turkey with the onion and garlic in a skillet.  Drain grease and place it in a very large bowl. Set aside.  Cook the sausage in same pan until browned and cooked through.  Add to bowl with beef, stirring to incorporate.  If you’re going to add green peppers, mini sweet peppers or mushrooms, cook them in the same pan and add to the bowl.  Add the spaghetti sauce and cooked pasta, mixing with a large spoon.

Place Ricotta in a small bowl.  Add one egg, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp parsley, ¼ tsp basil, ¼ tsp pepper, ½ tsp sugar.  Mix with a fork or whisk until well blended.

Add the Ricotta and grated Italian blend to bowl, making sure to reserve a good half cup of Italian blend for the final layer. Do NOT over mix the cheeses, you want to leave a few clumps of it here and there.  (I’m all about pretty.)

Find one of your beautiful oven to table serving dishes that has tall sides, (or use a blah and boring 9 x 13 baking dish).  Lightly spray it with baking spray.  Spoon or pour the entire bowl of mixture into your dish.  Sprinkle with approximately 1/4 cup each of Parmesan and Romano Cheese.  Sprinkle the reserved Italian Blend Cheese and lightly drizzle with about 1 TBSP olive oil.

Cover with foil and BAKE at 375* for about 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

OPTIONAL:  Mushrooms, mini sweet peppers, and green pepper.  Sauté them after cooking the meat.

Tika’s Notes: Freezes well right in a baking dish!  I cover with plastic wrap, which I press down to keep the air and freezer burn out.  Put labeled and dated foil on top of that.  If you’re going to create something this delicious, may as well have a spare in the freezer. It will take a good two days to thaw in the refrigerator.  I suppose you could use freezer bags, or foil packets.  I’ve never done either.

Great, I’m hungry now.  Ugh.

And home made Italian bread? Oh, my!
And homemade Italian bread? Oh, my!
Baked Ziti, the Best
Baked Ziti, the Best

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By Tika for CHEW WANNA EAT?

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