Friday, January 30, 2009

Top 10 - Baked Ziti

I've realized lately that I have a few recipes I've made a bunch of times that always come out great, and the leftovers never go to waste. I don't have a lot of them, but my goal is to work my way towards a Top 10. I think it would be great to have 10 solid recipes that I can go to as quick and easy staples for weeknight dinners... and this baked ziti will always be at the top of that list!

I tend to do well with Italian recipes - they must be tough to mess up! Luckily, Dan and I are both big pasta fans, and this is an incredibly easy way to have something more than regular old spaghetti. I also made a HUGE pan of this for my mom's birthday party and ended up with lots of compliments and barely any leftovers - so it's a hit all around!

Baked Ziti
1 lb ziti pasta (any variation of a mostacholi noodle works just as well)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
6 slices provolone cheese
1 bag shredded Italian cheeses (or just mozzarella)
grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta until al dente, and drain.
Cook the ground beef in a skillet (I seasoned it with just garlic salt & pepper. The recipe also called for onion but i skipped that). Discard juices and mix in spaghetti sauce - simmer just until warm.

Using a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish, layer ingredients in this order:
1. half of the pasta (I mixed a tiny bit of sauce in it so it wouldn't be too dry on the bottom)
2. provolone cheese
3. sour cream (if using)
4. ground beef and sauce mixture
5. the other half of the pasta
6. shredded cheese
7. grated parmesan

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the top cheeses start to brown.

A few things I've learned while making this dish:
1. Something slightly larger than a 9x13 dish would also work - I usually have a little leftover pasta and a little leftover sauce mixture that doesn't fit into the layers. For us, it doesn't go to waste because Dan will take it for lunch the next day, but a bigger dish would fit everything perfectly! I am, however, slightly attached to my 9x13, and tend to use it for anything I possibly can.
2. Cooking the pasta just until al dente is IMPORTANT. If cooked all the way and THEN baked for 30 minutes it can get a bit soggy.
3. The leftovers of this are just as good as the first time around. :)

I'm tempted to try this with wheat or organic pasta and low-fat cheeses to see how it works as a "healthier" meal. I think this would also be great with spinach added in to the layers, but the pop of green would automatically mean Dan wouldn't eat it, so I'll have to save that experiment for another time.

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On another note - I ordered curtains for the dining room from Linens-n-Things for next to nothing, as they are finally all closing and clearing out their online inventory. They are very simple plain navy curtains, but for $11.99 I couldn't justify passing them up. AND, they were part of the buy one get one free section with free shipping - so I got 4 panels for that price! Our 2 dining room windows are fairly small, so I'm pretty sure I'll end up with 2 extra panels, which I'm tempted to add over the blinds in our bedroom for a little bit more of a "comforting" feel than stark white blinds give. I figure I can also add some cheap sheers from ikea over the navy in the dining room for a great finishing touch. I'll post pictures once the curtains are delivered and in place!


Michael said...

Everyone loved this recipe at the baptism. We cooked two pans and it was gone by Sunday.

Kim said...

Second! I ate all the remaining leftovers too. Thanks for the recipe.

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