After a full day of running around town, including a Costco run, Jess and I needed a little dinner. I had already decided it was time to whip up my famous baked ziti. Needless to say, it turned out amazing. Even better than the last time I made it. I don’t use a recipe, but just use bits and pieces of things I’ve picked up along the way.
Now, I’m giving away my secrets to you. Free of charge. Play your cards right, I might even make it for you one day. (I’m thinkin on the Coast, Kim) It’s actually quite simple. Plus, this will probably make 8 to 10 servings, which for me means lunch all week!
What you’ll need.
- 1 lb. ground italian sausage (I like a little spice in mine)
- 1 lb. block mozzarella cheese (I suppose you could use fresh too)
- 2 cup Shredded mozzarella
- 2 can Hunt’s Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (or whatever sauce you like)
- 1 box Penne Pasta
- 1 med Onion
- Italian Seasoning
- Parmigiano Reggiano
First, brown the sausage in a pan. Dice the onion and toss that in with the sausage to cook through. Season with a little salt and pepper. With that on the heat, open the sauces and get them in a pan to simmer a bit. Throw in a bunch of Italian Seasoning and crush some fresh garlic in there. You can even toss a little wine in the sauce if you’re so inclined. Yes, one could make their own spaghetti sauce, but I’m not THAT into it. Plus, with a little help, the store bought canned stuff can be pretty damn good.
While everything is cooking, take the block of mozzarella and cut it into cubes. Maybe about half inch size.
Once the sausage is cooked, pull it off the heat to cool a bit, and you can remove the sauce after it has simmered for a while.
Cook about 3/4 of the pasta according to the instructions on the box. No, I don’t have an accurate measure of how much to use. Don’t be afraid to ball park it. Just dump in enough to make you feel good. Hell, cook it all if you want. You might want to make sure it’s still at least a little al dente since you will continue to cook it later in the oven. Drain the pasta (but don’t rinse it with water, otherwise the sauce won’t stick!)
Dump the sausage (and onion) into a large mixing bowl with the pasta and cheese cubes. Spoon in about 2/3 of the sauce and stir gently to mix everything together. Once mixed, dump that whole mess into a 9×13 baking dish (you might want to first hit that bad boy with a shot of Pam to keep things from sticking).
Press it into a nice level shape and use the rest of the sauce to cover the exposed surface. Make sure you get it all covered, since anything that isn’t covered by sauce will burn. Cover the sauce with the shredded moz, and throw on some of the Parmigiano Reggiano (sorry… I think I’m channeling Rachel Ray). Use as much cheese as you like. This will brown in the oven and make a real nice crust on the top.
Oh yeah, did I tell you to preheat your oven? No? Well, you should have. Throw the dish into the oven set about 375 or so. Leave it in there for a half an hour, 40 min or until the cheese is browned on top.
When its done, pull it out and dig in. Actually, you might want to let it sit for a few minutes otherwise you will be greeted with a mouthful of molten cheese.
Feel free to mix this thing up too. If you want mushrooms, do it. Olives? Eeewww, but go ahead. Throw some ricotta cheese in the mix. Go crazy.
This stuff is the best. Simple to make and a crowd pleaser. Serve with a green salad, a hunk of fresh baked french bread and a glass of wine. Voila’!