Baked Ziti

I have an almost irrational obsession with baked ziti.  And I can pinpoint exactly where it comes from.  It was, I’d say, wow, about 10 years ago.  My wonderful Hubs (who was not my  Hubs yet) invited a coworker to go to dinner with us.  We went to Pasta Pomodoro in Rockridge (amazing outside seating with equally amazing heaters).  I very clearly remember ordering the very rich and creamy baked ziti.  When the waiter brought our food and said, “baked ziti?” I watched in dumb-founded amazement as Hector said, “Yes, right here.”  Right here?!??  “No, RIGHT HERE!!!” I silently screamed.  I don’t even remember the non-baked ziti dish I ended up with that night.  How could I?  It wasn’t baked ziti.  Ever since that fateful evening I have been on a baked ziti quest.  Each variation of a recipe that I try gets put in the “never again” pile, the “hmm, give it one more try” pile, or THIS could be the ONE” pile.  I made this ahead for our Tahoe trip.  My dad loved it, which is a whole other story, but got it added to the THIS could be the ONE pile.  🙂 

Ingredients:

16 oz dry ziti pasta
1 small / medium onion chopped (depends on preference)
1 lb extra lean ground beef (can sub turkey or chicken)
2 (26 oz) jars pasta sauce (such as Classico Tomato & Basil)
6 oz sliced provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 Tbs grated Parmesan

Preparation:

Add ziti to slightly salted boiling water.  You want to cook to al dente because this dish will go in the oven.

Over medium – high heat, in a large skillet, sweat onions until soft, add ground beef.  Once browned, add pasta sauce and simmer 15 minutes.

While simmering sauce, preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray.  Layer 1/2 of the ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 10
Total time: 1 hour

Baked Ziti

Not a great picture, we got busy in Tahoe and I forgot to take another when cutting into it!

*Derived from AllRecipes.com

Ravioli Lasagna

Who does not like ravioli? And who doesn’t like lasagna? Also, though, who doesn’t like or have all the time it takes to make lasagna? I’m a total cheater when it comes to the rav, so I won’t even go there. That being said, I love ravioli, little pillows puffed with ricotta and maybe a meat, or even just the ricotta and some spices. They are, really, a blank canvas. You can  add a sauce making them as rich and decadent as you’d like. Or, you can add a sauce bursting with fresh flavor from the garden. Filling you up, but not leaving you heavy. Pretty much the same idea goes for lasagna. There are so many amazing, and completely opposite ends of the spectrum options. But, what if you took ravioli and made it into a kind of quasi lasagna? Oh my, now you’re talking!

*For this dish, the recipe called for a 26-28 oz jar of tomato pasta sauce. Being typical of a cook that wants to use what is available to me, I used the 1/2 jar of 24 oz Barilla Organic Olive Oil, Basil, and Garlic pasta sauce and 1/2 of the jar of the 15 oz Barilla Alfredo Sauce already opened in the refrigerator both from a past lazy night of wanting something especially quick. With both of these leftover jars I’d say I used 28 oz., total.

I also loved this recipe for all of the options. While I used just cheese ravioli, I could have easily used chicken or sausage rav. I could have also added sliced, fresh mushrooms; I could have even added frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain. Or, how about pepperoni. Maybe some Italian sausage crumbles? So many options! Oh, Oh, Oh! You could also go with a Tex Mex theme. Simply sub the pasta sauce for a jarred salsa (such as Old El Paso), add corn and change the cheese to cheddar or a Mexican blend. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Hmmm, it JUST got interesting!

There is also the most wonderful make-ahead option. Simply layer the ingredients in the baking dish, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 ours. Then bake as directed. So this dish COULD be made on a week night! I LOVE that option.

Ingredients (as I made it):

1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (any variety)
1 1/2 cups Alfredo sauce
1 pkg (25 – 28 oz) cheese filled ravioli
3 cups shredded mozzarella (low moisture used)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350°.  Spray 13×9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread ¾ cup pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange the ravioli in a single layer over sauce; top with mozzarella cheese.  Next layer, spread ¾ cup Alfredo sauce over ravioli, top with mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers.  On the final layer, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes (if using frozen ravioli, bake 40 minutes).  Remove foil; bake uncovered 15 – 20 minutes, or until bubbly and hot.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with warm bread and Daniela’s Caesar salad.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Cabernet Franc
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 8
Total time: 1:10

Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna

*Derived from Betty Crocker

Mini Meat Loaves

A few awesome things about these mini meat loaves: 1) they are mini, so everyone gets their own personal meat loaf, which is key if you are 5 and 6 years old; 2) you can even kind of make them to order, as far as the toppings go since they are pretty small, and; 3) the cook so much faster than your grandmother’s meat loaf.  The pasta sauce, basil, and cheese really made these tasty.  Add a nice green vegetable (such as the roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese that I did) and you’ve got the start of a quick and filling meal.

Ingredients:

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup prepared marinara sauce
½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
2 Tbs Gourmet Garden basil paste (one of the best inventions ever)
1 lb lean ground beef (can use turkey, chicken, etc)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ tsp salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450°.  In a large bowl, combine egg, 1/2 cup marinara sauce, bread crumbs, basil paste, and salt.  Add beef and 1/2 cup of cheese; using hands, mix well.  Divide mixture into four equal parts.  Shape into a small loaf.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Spoon remaining marinara sauce over the top of each and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160°

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Merlot
Petit Sirah
Syrah / Shiraz
Zinfandel

Serves: 4 large helpings (or 6 smaller servings)

Total time: 25 minutes

Mini Meat Loaves

Mini Meat Loaves

*Original Serves-4 Recipe