Saturday, October 3, 2009

Southernized Baked Ziti

A slightly southernized version of baked ziti, made with the Trinity of southern vegetables, tiny beef and sausage meatballs, a tomato based sauce with Italian sausage and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Southernized Baked Ziti

While baked ziti may not be traditional southern fare, it's a popular dish that goes a long way to feeding a crowd of folks and y'all know I'm gonna have to southernize it just a little bit!

Actually, where I grew up here along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, not only do we have amazing access to fresh seafood, but because of our history and our military bases, bringing people here from literally all over the world, we are so fortunate to also have a large influx of a variety of cuisines in our area.

Coming up, many of my friends were in Air Force families and I spent a lot of time on the base with them - at the teen clubs ... and later the NCO and Officer's Clubs - hello handsome pilots in USAF flight suits - and the base swimming pools, marina, bowling alley, and stomping around base housing - even though I was a "civilian." I might as well have had a military issued dependent ID! Of course that was bittersweet too, because friends would come and go as their dads would get orders for the next base and the next town. Not impossible to believe I ended up marrying a military man is it?

I managed to wrangle up more than a few invitations to dinner back in those days too since I often found myself away from home at supper time. I can remember one of my friends having ziti pretty regularly at the hand of her Italian mama and boy did I love it!

Now... to be clear... as usual when I make a dish that's not especially regional for where I live, I don't pretend by any stretch of the imagination for my version to be authentic, so this is just my slightly Southernized interpretation of a ziti seasoned with The Trinity. A true Italian baked ziti requires the preparation of a Sunday Gravy, a red sauce usually made with fresh Roma tomatoes and tiny meatballs made from a variety of meats from the beef, veal, and pork family.

Here's how I make mine.

Typically when I make this dish, I use a leftover spaghetti meat sauce I've stored up in the freezer, but your favorite commercial sauce will also work just fine. You'll need around 4 to 5 cups of sauce in total. It's easy enough to make up a quick meat sauce too though.

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add a basic trinity - onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until softened but not brown, add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove the sausage from the casings and add to skillet, breaking up the meat to fine crumbles. Cook over medium to medium high heat until lightly browned; drain off any excess fat. Using kitchen shears, roughly chop the tomatoes in the can, and add those along with the Italian seasoning to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes. Remove 2 cups of the sauce and set aside.


While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Cook the pasta just to al dente according to package directions; drain. Add the ziti to the remaining sauce and combine well. Taste, add salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning as needed and set aside.


While it's very good with just the meat sauce, when I have time, I like to include meatballs also. These may be made ahead to be at the ready. Combine 1/2 pound of ground beef with 1/2 pound of Italian sausage removed from the casings. To that I add 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs, 2 large eggs, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of dried parsley, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan.


Combine and form into tiny meatballs, about the size of a cherry tomato. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes.


From there it's just layering. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large oblong 4 quart baking dish, add half of the ziti mixture.


Dollop the ricotta on top of the pasta and top with slices of fresh mozzarella, or use shredded if that's what you have. Reserve one cup or enough slices of the mozzarella for the top.


Then sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that.


Add half of the meatballs.


Dot top with 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce mixture.


Smear it around.


Add the remaining ziti mixture and top with the remaining meatballs and the remaining sauce.


Add another layer of mozzarella and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that.


Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and place a baking sheet on the rack below as insurance for any spillover. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover, sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and center is hot.


Recipe: Southernized Baked Ziti

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 40 min |Cook time: 1 hour 10 min | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:
  • 1/2 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound of Italian sausage, removed from the casings
  • 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the Gravy:
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds of Italian sausage
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Ziti:
  • 1 pound of ziti pasta
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 large mozzarella ball, or about 4 cups shredded divided
  • 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Instructions

For the meatballs, combine ingredients and form into tiny meatballs, about the size of a cherry tomato. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until softened but not brown, add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove the sausage from the casings and add to skillet, breaking up the meat to fine crumbles. Cook over medium to medium high heat until lightly browned; drain off any excess fat. Using kitchen shears, roughly chop the tomatoes in the can, and add those along with the Italian seasoning to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes. Remove 2 cups of the sauce for layering and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Cook the pasta just to al dente according to package directions; drain. Once the ziti has stopped steaming, add it to the remaining sauce and combine well. Taste, add salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large oblong 4 quart baking dish, add half of the ziti mixture. Dollop the ricotta on top of the pasta and top with slices of fresh mozzarella, or use shredded. Reserve one cup or enough slices of the mozzarella for the top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that. Add half of the meatballs. Dot top with 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce mixture and smear it around. Add the remaining ziti mixture and top with the remaining meatballs and the remaining sauce. Add another layer of mozzarella, reserving some for later, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that.

Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and place a baking sheet on the rack below as insurance for any spillover. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover, sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly, cheese has melted and center is hot.

Cook's Notes: Substitute your favorite homemade or commercial spaghetti sauce for this dish. You'll want about 4 to 5 cups of sauce. May also be made with the meat sauce only and omit the meatballs.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on October 3, 2009
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9 comments:

  1. this looks wonderful and what a coo upbringing

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  2. that sounds great Mary, and perfect for this fall weather going on here right now!

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  3. Looks and sounds delish. I just found you thru another MS blogger. Love food blogs and yours looks fun.

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  4. Angel Food's Italian sausage is very good isn't it. My brother did 25 years USMC. My niece has a similar childhood story. She too married a military guy.

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  5. Mary, Your childhood sounds so interesting, and with all the various cultural cuisines around you, it is no wonder you're such a good cook. I do love a good ziti and yours sounds great! I also clicked on your link for THE TRINITY and yes, that's just about the most important three items there are, huh?

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment about commenting (ha!), I posted it today and have a nice recognition for you to copy and paste (from my blog today) on your blog if you like. Hope you're enjoying autumn in Mississippi! Roz

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  6. Looks wonderfully Southern and comforting! Keep on Southernizing your dishes.

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  7. Holy Schmoly...that ziti looks de-lish! I just made some 'no bean chili' tonight that was really yummy...I could maybe use the leftover meat and onions to make this. I need some motivation to cook more and have been having so much fun with it, yay! Thanks for sharing all of these amazing recipes and thanks for stopping by my blog earlier today.

    Jamie :)

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  8. I love baked ziti..this sounds like a great recipe~

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  9. I made this for dinner last night. Everyone really liked it. Yummy. (I used lean ground beef not sausage, but it was still d'lish!)

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