I can't say enough nice things about baked ziti.
It's the little black dress of comfort food.
Delicious. Filling. Feeds the multitudes. Freezes well.
This dish is a culinary cousin to lasagna, and there are many recipes and variations,
ranging from homemade tomato sauce to the jarred variety.
The addition of heavy cream and sauteed bell peppers
adds depth and character to this beloved favorite.
We're talking about beloved comfort food.
Ziti is speedy, too, which means it's the frazzled cook's best friend.
While your casserole is baking, you can wrap gifts, gild cupcakes, or relax. The next day, your ziti will taste even better.
3/4 cup assorted bell peppers, chopped (red/green/yellow)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground sirloin
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 26-ounce jar tomato/pasta sauce
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 box ziti (or 1 pound uncooked rigatoni)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
Italian parsley, 1/4 cup chopped
9 x 12 baking dish
Cook the ziti according to directions (be sure to add salt to the water). Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Pour 3 Tablespoons olive oil into a Dutch oven or large skillet. Add chopped bell peppers and onions. Sautee over a medium flame. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic (more, if you like garlicky ziti) and sautee a minute or two (don't brown).
Add ground sirloin (if you use ground chuck, be sure to drain the fat after cooking the meat). Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat. Mix with sauteed vegetables; cook until meat is browned. This takes about 15 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes (I didn't drain the can) and blend. Add tomato sauce.
Turn down the flame and let sauce cook down a bit and thicken, about 10-15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 X 12 baking dish with Pam.
Take 2 cups drained, cooked (still-warm) ziti and place in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella and 3 Tablespoons heavy cream. Mix. Place pasta in the bottom of the baking dish. Add a layer of meaty tomato sauce. Top with 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella. Take another 2 cups of ziti and add cheese and cream. Pour on top of the mozzarella. Add a layer of tomato/meat sauce. Keep layering. Top with sauce and mozzarella.
Cover pan with foil, place pan in oven, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is slightly brown. The baked ziti casserole will look "juicy" around the edges, but that's normal. Remove pan from the oven and cool 15 minutes. This allows the casserole to "collect" itself.
Top with chopped Italian parsley.
Check out the slacker's version of holiday cupcakes and an updated renovation diary.