Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Food Recipe - Baked Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage - serves 8 people

 Whenever we have pasta it reminds me of a very dear family friend who makes the best Italian meals I have ever tasted, and there were the special ones around Christmas time.  Everything was made from scratch, including her pasta, and our son still remembers her scrumptious pumpkin pies.  She is the most amazing cook!  When I think of her culinary delights, those good memories come back of holiday get-togethers, when she was so welcoming to me as a young bride and new to this country.  Consequently she has and always will be very dear to me.


As I hadn't fixed a pasta dish in quite a while I had a request from hubs. He loves pasta, I do too but maybe not as much as he, and so I need the occasional nudge to remember how good it is.  I had some Italian sausage left in the fridge from the previous dish and so when I found this delicious concoction here at "Garnish and Glaze" I knew this would be a winner. The blog host is Melanie and she lives in Nebraska.  There are many, many delicious recipes on her blog, and it is well worth checking it out.  


Baked Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage - serves 8

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cab (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, peeled
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) Basil and Oregano diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 box (16 ozs.) rigatoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh chopped parsley and basil for garnish


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage and onions together until meat is browned.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds)

Break tomatoes apart with your hands as you add them to the skillet.

Stir in the tomato sauce, paste, sugar, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is cooked through, and then stir in the diced tomatoes and fresh basil (if you like your sauce thick you can simmer without the lid, but the sauce thickens when it bakes also.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or two 8 x 8 inch dishes.

While sauce simmers cook the pasta as directed on the package for 10 minutes or until al dente.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot.

Mix 2 cups of the sauce in with the noodles.

Pour half the pasta into the baking dish, top with half the remaining meat sauce, sprinkle with half the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and then repeat the layers using up the remaining ingredients (you can add more cheese to the top if desired).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Let dish cool for 10 minutes and then serve garnished with Parmesan cheese, parsley and basil.

Melissa also mentions that you can use plain diced tomatoes with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil to the sauce right before you simmer it, and add the plain diced tomatoes after simmering.

Also this can be made without the sausage.  You will need to cook the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Serving size is an 1/8 of the recipe.  With the sausage it comes out to about 541 calories per serving.  Without sausage it is 401 calories.



What did we think of this dish?  Delicious and we will be making it again.

I only had the sweet Italian sausage in links. I took the casings off and broke the meat up in the skillet. For next time I would make it easier on myself and buy the Italian sausage meat in a roll.  It doesn't take that long to remove the casings but I just like to remove all the steps I can.

I didn't have the exact sized baking dishes suggested above, but had a Corning Casserole that I have had in my collection for yonks. It is my go-to for everything. I am not sure of its capacity and didn't bother to measure it but it is not overly large.  The mixture came right to the top of the dish but did not spill over into the oven. I did lay some aluminum foil on the shelf beneath the dish just in case.

I grated enough Parmesan to put on top of our meals, and also added a slice of buttered bread, sprinkled with grated Parmesan and toasted under the broiler.  

Another tasty treat we have discovered is if you put a teaspoon of grated Parmesan right on the broiling pan, it melts into a delicious, crispy wafer.  We found this out when we broiled those Parmesan toasts as extra cheese fell onto the broiling pan.  We loved nibbling on these, the taste is outstanding.  It would also be good broken up and put on top of say tomato soup instead of using bread.  I am not sure how difficult it would be peeling it off any other way, but when I use my non-stick aluminum foil, I can remove it easily.

This meal would also go great with a nice side salad but as I didn't have any greens we did without this time.  There are so many tomatoes in this dish, you do get your veggies.

Next time I make this dish I will leave out the sausage and go vegetarian.

There are leftovers for tomorrow, and also enough to freeze for for another day.