Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baked Ziti

This is one of the first dishes I ever learned to make. It's not gourmet, and it's not healthy in any way, but it is a crowd pleaser. Two bags of cheese, three jars of sauce, a whole box of pasta? What's not to love?

Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Cook Time: 50 minutes


1 box of tubed pasta (I use Rigatoni usually as I find the ridges hold more sauce)
1 package lean ground meat (I use turkey, but if you prefer ground beef, then go for it)
3 jars of pasta sauce (your favorite kind)
2 8 oz packages of shredded mozzarella cheese (I also like the italian cheese blends, but J does not)
Italian seasoning
Salt/pepper to taste

I also use a disposable lasagna pan to make this because scraping the cheese off of my glass baking dish is kind of a pain in the butt. It's $3 that makes my life way easier.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Set your pasta to boil in a large pasta pot with some olive oil in the water to keep the pasta from sticking. You'll want to use a bit more than you may normally use because you really don't want these noodles to stick.

In a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, brown your ground meat. Season with italian seasoning, salt and pepper as you brown.

Once your meat is mostly cooked, drain off the excess liquid/fat that has accumulated in the skillet. Set the meat aside. After the pasta is cooked, drain and let it continue to drain in a colander. In the same pot you cooked your pasta, dump two and a half jars of sauce, and set over medium heat. Season accordingly with the italian seasoning, and add the browned meat.

Let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes. Then, in your baking dish/lasagna pan, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom.

Layer a fine layer of shredded cheese over the sauce.

Next, add a layer of noodles.

Repeat the process. When you add the sauce this go-round, be a little more heavy handed. This is where the bulk of the goodies go. 

After you get the second layer of noodles, you'll want to add the rest of your sauce. I typically have run out of the meat sauce at this point, and that's where the extra half of a jar of sauce comes in handy. Also helps get into the corners of the pan. Then, load it up with the rest of the cheese. 

Throw that puppy in the oven at 375 degrees for about ten minutes, just in time for the cheese to get melty. Then, pull it out and sprinkle with italian seasonings. Throw it back in for another ten to fifteen minutes, until it's bubbling and melted. After that, pop on the broiler and WATCH IT LIKE A HAWK. No more than three minutes. Yank it out when it starts to develop delicious brown spots.

Allow to cool/rest/congeal for about five minutes, then serve and enjoy!