Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Baked ziti is a dish that fits several of my requirements for a good meal: it it simple to make, doesn’t take very long, is delicious and hearty, and it makes wonderful leftovers.  It is a very flexible recipe that can use ingredients made from scratch (the marinara), and fresh chopped vegetables if you have the time.  You can also shorten the prep time significantly by using pre-cooked pasta and store purchased marinara (I really like Classico’s Triple Mushroom sauce) if you are in a time crunch.  I usually make this dish with Italian sausage but it is just as tasty as a vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz ziti
  • 2 cups marinara or 1 jar of pasta sauce
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 6 oz ground Italian sausage (optional)
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil pasta until tender and drain.  Brown sausage.

Coat and 8 1/2 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine pasta, pasta sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, salt, pepper sauce, and browned sausage in  baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cup of mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Drinks

The Tabasco and Italian sausage in this dish give it just a little bit of a kick so it is best when paired with a red wine that is a little more on the mellow side.  I recently discovered just such a wine when I purchased La Vieille Ferme‘s 2008 red.  It’s a bit fruity, which complements the ziti beautifully.

Music

This meal is, on the surface, very simple and hearty.  However, it has that little hint of spice because of the Tabasco and Italian sausage.  You can also have some variety in the way in which it is prepared, depending on your mood.  It can have meat or can go vegetarian.  You can alter a lot of the flavor depending on what type of pasta sauce you decide to use.  Because of this, I like music that, on the surface may come across as simple but really holds a great deal of variety and complexity.  There is no better band than Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, particularly their first album Burn to Shine.  It is incredibly varied stylistically, yet is often rooted in blues and folk.

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