Casa M Baked Ziti
Baked ziti is a classic dish. More comfort food than elegant food, it's universally welcomed at nearly every possible family gathering. We've got a tried-and-true classic version that we're presenting the recipe for here, however... if you saw the recipe for our Bolognese sauce last weekend and made it, you'll know it's enough to feed an army and there's bound to be leftovers. Well look no further for a way to put that to good use than this very baked ziti. If you have the leftover Bolognese sauce, you can skip the sauce preparation altogether (but we do recommend moving the roasted red peppers up into the filling section since they add great added depth to this dish).
This is a pretty simple recipe overall for as good as it tastes in the end. Sweet Italian sausage is a great flavor profile to merge with the red sauce. If you prefer hot Italian sausage better, substutute as desired. Fresh basil is a necessity here. Give the sauce as much time as you have to cook. If you start late, no worries. It can be done in as little as 30 minutes, but the longer you give it the more it will reward you with richness and depth in not only the tomatoes themselves, but the marriage of the spices with the tomatoes and the sausage. Be careful to only par-cook your pasta and to arrest its cooking when you drain it with a cold water rinse. Overcooking the pasta will lead to a mushy finished product. Ovens differ in many ways. Cooking time will be different for every oven. The first 45 minutes don't matter much since the dish is covered. Once you remove the foil and it's no longer "steaming", you're aiming to brown. Keep an eye on the cooking process every 15 minutes or so to balance the browning and the "bubbling and melting of the cheese". You want the dish to look firm to the touch, golden on top, and all the cheeses on the top melted well (not just browned).
As always, from our table to yours... #SpiceConfidently #EssenceOfFlavor #ChemistryInTheKitchen #CasaMSpice
— Mike Hernandez
For the Filling:
- 1 pound whole milk cottage cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, half for the filling, half for topping
- 4 eggs, beaten
For the Sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 42 ounces tomato sauce
- 28 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes, half for the sauce, half for topping
- 1 Tablespoon Casa M Spice Co® Uncontrolled Chain Reaction®
- 1 Tablespoon Casa M Spice Co® Chain Reaction®
- 1 Tablespoon Casa M Spice Co® Cattle Drive®
- 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 cups red Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped (optional, roasted red bell pepper works well here too)
Pulling It All Together:
- 1 pound ziti or other tubular pasta that will fill with sauce
- 8 ounces Mozzarella cheese
After half the time listed on the pasta, remove from the heat, drain, and rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking. Overcooking here will lead to mushy pasta that won't hold up in the baking process.- Mike Hernandez
LET’S GET COOKING
Start your sauce by adding the oil to a large sautée pan over medium-high heat. Cut the sausage into 1/2" thick medallions or if you are using bulk sausage, slightly less than 1/2" diameter balls. Add them to the pan and fry until they start to show browning. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the onions start to turn translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the Casa M Spice Co® seasonings, herbs, tomato sauce, half of the diced tomoatoes, and if you're using roasted peppers, those too. Mix well and let simmer. There's no real timer here on this step. You can let it simmer for as little as 30 minutes (to cook the pork through) or as long as several hours to really blend the flavors well. It really depends on your timing. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as needed.
Par-cook the pasta by adding it to a pot of boiling, salted water and cooking for 1/2 the time listed on the pasta. After half the time listed on the pasta, remove from the heat, drain, and rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking. Overcooking here will lead to mushy pasta that won't hold up in the baking process. Drain the pasta well. Dry your pot by placing it back on the stove with no heat, but the same burner you used. You will be combining the pasta and filling and sauce in this pot.
Preheat the oven to 350°F conventonal or 325°F convection bake.
While the oven is preheating, mix the filling and prepare your baking dish. Add the cottage cheese to a large mixing bowl along with the cream, half of the Parmesan cheese, and the beaten eggs. Mix well. Grease a deep 13" x 9" baking dish well with olive oil and prepare a sheeet of aluminum foil that will cover the dish well and wrap around and seal it well.
To the pot you cooked the pasta in add the dried, cooked pasta, the sauce, and the filling and mix well to get everything well distributed and some of the sauce and filling inside the pasta.
Transfer the mixture into your baking dish, top with the remaining Parmesan, diced tomatoes, and Mozzarella torn into little pieces scattered across the top, wrap the dish tightly with the foil, and put into the oven.
Cook for 45 minutes covered, then pull the foil off and return the dish to the oven for at last another 30 minutes. If you weren't using convection before and you have that capability, now's the time to use it to help brown the top. Check the oven every 15 minutes to see when you get to the point where the top is golden brown and the dish is bubbling everywhere and the cheeses are all melted uniformly. If you brown too quickly and need more time to cook through, put the foil back on top.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 minutes. It needs to set before you cut into it or it will fall apart as you're serving it.
Serve with a little more parmesan and a little fresh basil and enjoy!