Monday, July 9, 2012

Baked Ziti

My friends gently reminded me that I had not cooked for them since my thumb mishap.  I don't agree, seems to me I have, but I promised them some food. anyway.  These friends do not cook.  I have no idea what they live on but I know  the only real home cooked food they get is from me.  Hang in there with me for the first few photos.  The Blog Tech used my camera to take the fireworks photos and did not change the settings.  I, of course, forgot to check and took very dark photos.  I lightened them as much as I could.

First, I made about a million little meatballs.  This recipe works well for big meatballs too.  I used 2 pounds of ground beef and 1 pound of Italian sausage.  Use a mix of 80%/20% ground beef so your meatballs are not tough and dry.  Add 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs.  I used the herb bread I showed yesterday which added even more flavor.  Moisten them with 1-2 tablespoons of milk.

In the food processor, I minced a combination of lots of fresh herbs from my garden, 5 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. allspice and 1 onion.  Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 eggs and mix loosely until combined but don't over mix.  Fry a small piece and taste for seasoning.  They should be strongly flavored so they are not bland in the final dish.

For the sauce, saute' 1/2 pound of chopped panchetta.

Once it has fried, push it to the side and add 2 large pork steaks seasoned heavily with salt and pepper.  Brown on both sides.

Push them to the side and add 2 smoked pork chops and brown them.  Push them to the side and add 1 large diced onion.  Saute' just until it starts to soften.

Add 5 large cans of crushed tomatoes and 1 large can of tomato paste.  Of course, you can cut this recipe back unless you are feeding an army.  Add 2 smoked ham hocks.

Cover the pot and bake at 325 degrees for about 2 hours stirring occasionally.  I remove and discard all the meat.  You could remove the bones and chop the meat in a fine dice if you want to use it.  The sauce has most of the flavor from the meat which is why I discard it.

Oops...I guess I left out some meatball info..  Shape them into small balls about the size of a nickel.  Okay, nickels are flat.  I can't think of anything round that is that size.  Make small meatballs!  Bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 6 minutes.  They cook fast so keep an eye on them.

For your ricotta filling, mix 2 large containers of ricotta cheese with some dried oregano, shredded Parmesan and Asiago cheese (about 3/4 cup each), 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.  Mix this all together.

I boiled 4 pounds of ziti for this recipe.  Boil it for about 5 minutes less than called for because it will continue to cook in the oven.  Mix the ziti with some of the sauce.  Place a layer of ziti in all of your containers.

Sprinkle small cubes of Provolone cheese over the pasta.  Top with some of the small meatballs.

Add a layer of sauce.

Sprinkle with some small cubes of  diced mozzarella.  Add a layer of the Ricotta mixture.  I buy the best cheese I can for this recipe since I don't make it often.  Plus, when I go to all this trouble, I want it to be the best it can be.

Add more ziti and meatballs.  Push this down to make more room.  Add the remaining sauce, and extra diced cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake it at 350 degrees until the edges are bubbling and the top cheese is starting to brown.

This is best served 15-20 minutes after removing from the oven.  I even made extras for my friends parents.

The roll recipe will be posted tomorrow.  I might just mention, if you make this when it is 108 degrees outside, your kitchen, even with A/C,  will register about 200!

*When I went to deliver this to one of my friends she wasn't home.  She forgot that I was cooking for her......grrrrrr!