bringing it back (and baked ziti)

Friends, it has been over a year since we thought it would be a great idea to start a blog in which we could share our lives even as we are living in new and distant places – with a particular emphasis around the food we are eating. Well, I am on summer break now, and decided that it was as good a time as ever to bring this idea back out again. I thought it might be a fun way to occasionally share old and new favorite recipes, as well as any fun major or minor life events, or favorite places or things to do in your city.

As for me, I am officially a licensed educator in the state of Tennessee (my license was just approved a few days ago!), and I am thoroughly enjoying my summer break – sleeping, cleaning the house, cooking, babysitting, and reading, mostly.

A couple nights ago JonMark and I had a few friends from MTR over for homemade pizza. I was a bit overzealous with my cheese shopping, though, and we ended up with a copious amount of excess ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. So I needed to find a recipe that would use up all of the extra cheese…and here comes in the baked ziti. It was probably one of the best things I have eaten in a while.

I got the recipe from the Pioneer Woman (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/baked-ziti/) but I cut the proportions in half, as the original makes 12 servings!

So here’s baked ziti – 6 servings – one (very full) 9×13 casserole dish

  • 1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage or Ground Beef [I bought plain ground sausage and used this recipe for seasoning]
  • 1 can (15 Oz. Size) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
  • 1 cans (15 Oz. size) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce
  • 1 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente [I used penne…it doesn’t really matter]
  • 1/2 tub (15 Oz. Size) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 0.75 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated [I used mozzarella pearls, because that’s what I had]
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Egg [I ran out of eggs, so I used a “chia egg” – 1 Tbs chia seed and 3 Tbs hot water]
  • Fresh Minced Parsley [I didn’t have parsley, so I left it out]

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage/ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish [with the halved proportions it barely fit in a 9×13 casserole dish]. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling [I broiled it for the last few minutes to brown some of the top]. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 

Peace of Christ, dear friends.

Heather

 

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