Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Dinner: Baked Ziti with Tomato, Mozzarella and Sausage

 The original recipe says that it will serve 4, but you can easily cut it in half to serve that many, especially if you extend it by adding some extra meat (left-over pot roast from last week), as we did.

Lynn found this recipe and we both like it for several reasons: mixing the seasoned ricotta with the cooked pasta - while the pasta is still warm, before assembling the remainder of the dish distributes the ricotta mixture beautifully throughout, it's not overly sauce-y, and it tastes great when you augment the sausage with leftover meat. In this case left-over roast beef, but we've also used pork.

Oh yes - and it's really delicious.

 If you assemble it before-hand (over an hour or more before the final baking), I recommend making it saucy-er as the pasta will absorb a good deal of the liquids. If you're planning on sticking it in the oven right after assembly, you're good to go.
Lynn hasn't added the mountain o'mozzarella yet and you can see how much there is in the pan already!
It doesn't take very long to cook once you've assembled it, it's just a matter of heating everything up and melting the cheese.


Adapted from:  Fine Cooking

Serves 8 if extended with additional left-over meat or sausage and 6-8 if made as-is.

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from its casing and crumbled
  • 2-3 cups shredded left-over pork shoulder, loin, roast beef or pot roast
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3 - 14 1/2 oz cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram or oregano - from about 6 large sprigs)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated aged asiago cheese
  • Pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lb. dried ziti
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella (fresh, if you can get it) cut into 1/2" cubes

Bring 2 - 4 quarts water to boil in a pot (that has a lid) that is at least 2 quarts larger in capacity than the amount of water you use. If you use the smaller amount of water you will need to stir while the pasta is cooking to make sure they don't to stick together. Commonly, we're instructed to use 1 quart per quarter pound of pasta but that's just not necessary if you stir occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 425F, rack in the middle

Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skilled, pre-heated on medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft (about 5 minutes) add the garlic and crumbled sausage and saute until the sausage starts to brown. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sausage gives off a lot of fat, pour off most of it, but just about a teaspoon. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any of the browned sausage bits. Let the wine reduce until it's almost gone. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the additional leftover meat and simmer up to 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Take the pan off-heat and add the oregano (or marjoram) and combine. Set aside.

When the pasta water comes to a strong boil, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, stir until the salt has dissolved and taste the water. It should be like tasting sea water. If not, add and additional 1/2 tablespoon. Let the water come back to the boil and add the pasta. Cover partially and let it come back to the boil (keep your eye on it to make sure that it doesn't boil over). Add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta, about 1/2 of the grated asiago (or any aged cheese like parmigiana or pecorino romano), the nutmeg and the parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain well and toss it with the ricotta mixture until it is distributed throughout the dish and the pasta is covered. Add the sausage and sauce and combine. Add the mozzarella cubes and toss gently. Pour everything into a large baking dish and sprinkle the remaining aged asiago on top. Bake uncovered until lightly browned and bubbly - about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.


Cathy said...

I think I just had a pastagasm.

Dave said...

That sounds wonderful. However, 424° seems a bit exacting.

Chris said...

Me, too. For a splurzge, Cathy, one coukd do roasted cauliflower or eggplant chunks to replace the pasta. Still alot of fat, but for a special occasion, it would work.

Nancy, you and Lynn are becoming a veritable font of inspiration.

Simple Simon said...

Looks wonderful and I'm loving the Blue Onion china.

Ms. Divina Loca said...

Hi Dave! I am nothing, if not precise but yeah, 424 +/- a few degrees either way isn't a bad thing :)