Happy holidays! The dynamic duo of finals week + the holiday season has finally let up enough for me to tend to my blog.
A hearty helping of baked ziti warms the soul on a frosty winter night. Even better, this dish lends itself to being stowed in the refrigerator and reheated later. I made a big bowl of it when it came time for my finals week, and plan to make some more now that I’m home. The more people you can share this with, the merrier!Like most of my standby dishes, I make ziti a little differently each time depending upon what I have on hand. It’s my philosophy that dishes like these shouldn’t require special trips to the store for ingredients, unless you’re trying to jazz them up for company with something fancy you don’t normally keep stocked.
Generally, I like to make my own tomato sauce for pasta dishes. It’s not nearly as labor intensive as it sounds. You just need a fairly large can of crushes tomatoes, and whatever you’d like add to it. For this ziti, I added in four cloves of garlic, one finely diced large onion, a package of ground turkey and some dried basil.
Make the sauce to your liking. If you like a chunkier garden vegetable sauce, substitute half the crushed tomatoes for diced, do a bigger dice on the onions and throw in some chopped peppers. If you like a cheesy, grate up your cheese of choice and toss it in. Maybe you’re going for a vegetarian sauce? Skip the meat and up the garlic and herbs.
I don’t know what your sauce of choice is, but I know you’ll be beaming with pride to (truthfully) tell people that you made the delicious sauce in your ziti all by your lonesome!
I started by sauteing the garlic and diced onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil, then browned the meat. After that, in went the crushed tomatoes and about a tablespoon of basil. I added a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper and left it on a back burner to get happy — for about 15 minutes — while I boiled the pasta. I also grated some fresh parmesan and cut thin slices of mozzarella, and set them aside for assembly. I used about a cup of each.
Once my sauce had thickened and my pasta had drained, it was time to put it all together. This’ll depend on the size of your dish and preferences, but I like to lay down about a quarter of my pasta at a time, enough sauce to cover them, a loootttt of cheese and a little bit more sauce before I start over. No matter what goes in underneath, I always make sure the ziti ends with lots of cheese on top!
I didn’t have it any on hand, but I’ve used sour cream in my ziti before and it’s fantastic! Add a few dollops in with your cheese layers and you’ll be in for a really great surprise.
Of course, I trust you’ll have the forethought to preheat your oven before you get this far along. I, however, did not. So my assembled ziti *marinated* — yes, let’s call it that — for about 10 minutes while the oven heated up to 375 F. In my own mind, it contributed to the overall mingling of flavors and textures later… right.
The ziti goes in for about 30 minutes. Just enough time for everything to get melty and gooey.
Like so! I didn’t have ziti noodles on hand, as you can see, but that’s never stopped me before.
On the side, I heated up some storebought focacia. This one was topped with sundried tomatoes and parmesan and too delicious for me to refrain from taking a bite before I snapped a photo.
I had a helping, plated some up for my roommate and then put some foil over the rest. It kept this frantic — and hungry! — student and her fed for the next few days.