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Sunday, July 8, 2012

MY TAKE ON BAKED ZITI

I admit it...Italian food is a favorite of mine and it is such a staple food among American fare.  And, having grown up in New Jersey, it was kind of hard not to be influenced by these Italian gems.  Spaghetti and meat sauce, or meatballs, along with a salad and garlic bread, is just a simple weeknight dinner and it provides leftovers for lunch the next day.  

The same can be said for just about any pasta dish, really, and baked ziti is no exception.  It's just one of the best casseroles dishes!  It makes a great hit at pot-lucks, family get-togethers, and freezes very well to have it on hand for a weeknight dinner.

Although, I tend not to make this dish when its this hot, I thought I might share my version of it. Enjoy!

(MY) BAKED ZITI

Preparation Time:  30 min.
Cook Time:  20-30 min.
Serves 8

Ingredients:                                                                       

1 pound penne pasta
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 jar marinara sauce (32 oz)
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/3 reserved for top)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt per 2 quarts of water.  Add pasta and continue boiling uncovered for 10 minutes or "al dente."  Drain the pasta and set aside. Brown beef and pork in a large saute pan and drain.  Add the garlic, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the meat.  Combine the pasta, meat, marinara sauce, and stewed tomatoes in a large bowl.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9X13 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Spoon a layer of the meat and pasta on the bottom of the casserole dish, then spread a thin layer of the ricotta, then a thin layer of the mozzarella, then repeat layers of the meat and pasta, another layer of the ricotta, another layer of the mozzarella.  The top layer of the casserole will be the meat and pasta.  Add the 1/3 reserved mozzarella on top.  Place in oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Pyrex 4-Qt. Oblong Baking Dish 


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