Baked Ziti

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I just got invited to a wedding!  I can’t even remember the last wedding I went to. (It was probably mine.)  So in honor of Dana and Travis I’m making a traditional wedding dish, Baked Ziti.

Ziti is a popular pasta, shaped like little tubes. Its name is plural for zito, which means either bridegroom, bachelor, spinster, or a girl before marriage.  Regardless, it is a regular component of Italian weddings, presumably because it is perfect for feeding a crowd.  This dish is best made with tubular pasta, to better hold in the sauce. You can also try it with the angled penne (meaning feather or quill), the larger ribbed rigatoni (meaning to draw a line), or the shell-shaped conchiglie (meaning sea shells).  Use any pasta you like in this dish, but be sure to name the dish accordingly!

INGREDIENTS

3 quarts water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. ziti
2 TB. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB. dried oregano
1 TB. dried basil
1 TB. ground fennel seed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

METHOD

  1. Bring water and salt to a full rolling boil. Add ziti, stir, and cook al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add onions, garlic, oregano, basil and fennel, and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, reduce heat, and stir 5-10 minutes to warm. Remove from heat and add ziti. Toss to coat.
  3. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a baking dish with pan spray. Layer ziti in baking dish alternately with mozzarella. Top with parmesan cheese and bake 30-40 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

Variations: Like lasagna, baked ziti can be made a zillion ways. Try adding layers of Italian sausage, sautéed mushroom, zucchini, spinach, or ricotta cheese.

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