This is one of my favorite recipes to prepare for a large crowd. You see, I carry on the traditional Italian meal that my great grandmother prepared for the family every year. It is rather hard core spread of Italian food and many of my friends, and even some family members, won't eat it. SO I prepare this Baked Ziti recipe just for them. It's a standing joke... I tell them all, "Of course I will be serving Baked Ziti for all my American friends." They get a kick out of that statement [big grin]
So here we go, quick and delicious baked Ziti:
You will need:
1 lb Ziti
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp parsley (flakes or fresh diced)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb ground meat-turkey beef or pork
1/2 cup onion chopped small
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tbsp basil
1 20 oz can diced petite tomatoes
1 jar spaghetti sauce
First prepare the sauce. While I like to make my own spaghetti sauce, when I have a big meal to prepare I start with a jar sauce and "doctor it up" as my mom would say. Begin by browning the meat of choice in a pot big enough to hold the finished sauce. After browning the meat, drain off excess fat, if necessary. Next add the onions and allow to cook for just a few minutes. Then add the jar sauce along with the diced tomatoes, and the fennel seed. Top off the sauce with basil. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for about an hour. Check and stir occasionally.
Now for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 350. Cook Ziti according to package instructions. Drain and add to a 13 x 9 baking dish or pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, garlic powder, egg, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix well. Add salt & pepper to taste and mix again. To this slowly add about 1 ladle of spaghetti sauce. Mixture should be pink, not red. Add cheese mixture to Ziti and mix well. Top with a small stream of sauce and the second cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are brown.
Personal notes -
Of course you can double or triple the pasta recipe based on how many you have to feed. I make double to feed about fifteen people. And with that I use 2 jars of sauce instead of one, not doubling the other ingredients except maybe increasing the fennel seed by 1/2. I don't like to add too much sauce in the pasta because the remaining sauce will be served on the side, along with some nice Italian bread.