I can’t think of a better comfort food to make during bad weather than a baked ziti. And maybe for the occasion I’ll add little meatballs to it. Hurricane Irene is barreling down on us, we are less than 12 hours away from the eye getting to the New York Metropolitan area. I figure, If I’m going to lose my power I might as well have a good hearty meal on hand to keep me going for a few days. Very easy to heat up on a stove top as well because my double wall oven is electric.
Before Hurricane Irene we would make baked ziti for any special occasion. Especially if we were having a large family party with tons of people. Baked ziti never disappointed. It was a staple of family gatherings. There was always plenty baked ziti and everyone loved it. Add the little meatballs and the occasion became even more special.
- 1 box Barilla Ziti Pasta 16 oz
- tomato sauce with sausage and little meatballs (recipe follows)
- 1 pound (16 ounces) ricotta
- 1 pound shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- 6 basil leaves, torn
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 cup grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano – 1 Pound
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian Parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl and mix well. Shape the meatballs by rolling them between your palms. They should be the size of grapes.
Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil and brown the meatballs on all sides. Let the meatballs sit for a while before turning them, that way they won’t break apart. Don’t worry about cooking them through because they will finish cooking in the sauce. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a plate and set aside.
For the tomato sauce
- three cans of Cento San Marzano Tomatoes, 28-Ounce Can, puree
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 pound of Italian style plain or fennel pork sausages
- prepared little meat balls
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 can Cento Tomato Paste, 12-Ounce (Pack of 24)
- 2 cups of water
- 6 fresh basil leaves, torn
- Salt and ground pepper
In a large sauce pot (this is what I use and where you can get it Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven) heat olive oil on medium high heat. Brown the sausage on all sides. Don’t worry about cooking them through because they will finish cooking in the sauce. Remove the sausage and transfer to a plate.
In the same pot add the chopped onions and cook 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the three cans of peeled tomatoes. In a large measuring cup add 2 cups of water and add the tomato paste. Mix till dissolved then add to the pot of sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmering boil then add the sausage and little meatballs.
Turn the heat to low and cook the sauce for about an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, partially covered, until thickened. Add the basil and taste for salt and pepper. When the sauce is cooked remove the sausage and little meatballs and set aside. Cut the sausage in little pieces and put with the meatballs.
Just before the sauce is ready bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the ziti al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the cooked ziti and place back into the pot. Add about 3 cups of tomato sauce to the ziti and half the grated cheese and mix well. This will prevent the ziti from sticking together. Stir in the meatballs and sausage pieces.
In a large oven pan or 4 quart casserole baking dish put half of the ziti mixture. Cover it with the ricotta and sprinkle with the mozzarella and some of the other half of the grated cheese. Pour on 1-2 cups of sauce. Top with the remaining ziti and another cup or two of sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Cover the dish with foil.
Bake the ziti in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, or until the center is hot and the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Have some extra sauce on the side.