Baked Ziti

ziti

 

Were you a Soprano’s fan? Do you ever get an itch for “Soprano” food? It seemed like Carmella always had some in the fridge and Tony sure liked it. I don’t know how she made hers but here is my version. You will need:

 

 

 

2 lbs Italian Sausage (sweet or hot, your choice – browned and crumbled)
1 12 oz bag of frozen, chopped onions (one of my favorite short cuts)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (more if you are so inclined)
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 lb (give or take) sliced pepperoni, crisped
6 oz Pesto Sauce
2 10 oz boxes of frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
3/4 – 1 lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
2 cups grated parmesan
1 lb box penne, prepared to package directions

ziti sausage

 

Heat a heavy, deep pan. You are going to need plenty of room. Oil the pan lightly. Add sausage, onion and garlic and heat until sausage is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Break up meat as you cook and mix well with onion and garlic. Do not be misled by a little pink in the meat. Its the seasoning. Then add the tomatoes, including the juice.

 

 

 

 

crisped pepperoni

 

 

While you are browning the sausage, onions and garlic, prepare the pepperoni. Just like in the Italian Grilled Cheese Sandwich, spread the sliced pepperoni on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 375° oven for about 4 or 5 minutes. You can test its “crispiness” by removing a piece and allowing it to cool a moment. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

 

pesto

 

 

 

 

Add the pesto and stir. You can prepare this up to this point the day before. Cover, refrigerate and reheat before proceeding.

 

 

 

 

 

ziti mix

 

In a large bowl (and I do mean large), combine the prepared pasta, drained spinach, cubed mozzarella, crisped pepperoni and 1/3 to 1/2 of the parmesan. I must admit, I didn’t have parmesan so I used a mixture of mozzarella and provolone. It was really good. Substitution is not a sin. Add the tomato/meat sauce.

panned ziti

 

 

 

 

Place the mixture in lightly oiled pan(s). This particular recipe makes a 13 x 9 x 2 pan plus an 11 x 8 x 2 pan. This freezes pretty well so one pan can go to the table and one can go in the freezer. In this instance, the smaller pan went to my neighbor. If you’re going to freeze part of it, I would recommend not adding the final layer of cheese nor baking. It has a tendency to dry out.

 

baked ziti

 

 

 

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese (parmesan or what ever you happen to be using or have on hand) over the ziti and place in a preheated 375° oven. You will want to make sure you have plenty of cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the cheeses have melted and begun to brown. Serve with a salad and you’re good to go. Yummmm….. Next thing you know, your family will be speaking Italian. Ciao, baby!

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