Monday, April 4, 2016

"Old School" Baked Ziti

This recipe comes from smitten kitchen. I think the posts are a bit verbose, but who am I to judge since my posts are really short. Regardless of the average post length, they are usually quality recipes.  I have to admit I'm not sure what is meant by "old school", because I have never made or had baked ziti with spinach in it until this recipe and it always includes ricotta which she is pretty adamantly against. Personally, I like baked ziti best without meat, but to each his own, no?

Glug of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage, casings removed
28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juices, chopped by you, or crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 pound pasta, cooked al dente and drained
3/4 pound mozzarella, coarsely grated
2/3 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
1/4 pound (4 ounces) baby spinach or a few handfuls of another green, cut into thin ribbons

To serve: Dollops of your favorite ricotta and slivers of basil leaves, if desired

I put 15oz ricotta in the mixture instead of at serving time and did not layer the cheese - 8 oz mozz and pcheese right on top. Also, I used escarole instead of spinach.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook pasta until quite al dente, or 2 minutes less than the suggested cooking time. (Please. It will keep cooking in the sauce, then in the oven and mushy pasta makes me sad.) Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.

Heat large sauté pan — if yours is ovenproof, you can even use it as your final baking vessel — over medium heat. Coat with glug of olive oil, and heat oil. Add meat and cook with onion, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until meat is browned; stirring frequently. If you’re using plain ground beef versus sausage meat, you’re going to really want to season this well. Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper.

Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. If it’s become quite thick, stir in reserved pasta water. Add spinach and cook until wilted, just another minute. Stir in drained pasta and heat together for one minute.

Pour half of pasta mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish, lasagna pan, or other 3-quart baking vessel (or divide among smaller ones, if you’d like to freeze some off). Sprinkle with half of each cheese. Pour remaining pasta and sauce over, and finish with remaining cheese. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes.

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