Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baked Ziti

We had our friends the Thoma's over for dinner yesterday with their three adorable girls aged 5, 3 and 1. Willow’s best little buddies, she asks to play with them all the time. The little one in particular, Rachel, is absolutely the cutest baby ever. She smiles constantly and just waddles around in that toddler way quietly occupying herself while the other girls play together jumping on the bed etc. I had to keep swooping her up for a cuddle. Just so adorable.

I made baked ziti for us all because it’s something most people like and enjoy, including kids, and served it with a cranberry salad and garlic bread. A simple one to put together, you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven also, I didn’t do that this time but I have before.

Baked Ziti

To make for a 9x13 pan, you'll need about 2 lbs of ground beef, 1 or 2 onions and 1-2 boxes of ziti pasta (or whatever you have in the cupboard) and some mozzarella cheese (amount depending on your preference). For sauce I just used our favorite jarred kind and it's just as good as homemade. 2 jars would be better but I only had 1 so I subbed a can of diced tomatoes (not pictured).

Begin by boiling up a big pot of salted water.

While it's coming to a boil on the stove, in another pot brown your beef. You don't need any oil, the meat will produce enough fat. As it browns, break it up good. I like my wooden spatula for this, it's so frustrating trying to use plastic.

Chop up your onion.

Around this time the water should be boiled. So go ahead and pour your pasta in. Give a quick stir.

Once brown, drain your beef however you like to do it. I put mine in a colander and then pat the top with some paper towels. Add it back to the pan after that.

Throw in your chopped onion and, I don't always, but here I added a little minced garlic for extra flavor because I knew I didn't have that extra jar of sauce. I think about 1 and a half jars would actually be ideal to make it not too dry and not too saucy. Fry for a few minutes longer to let the flavors infuse.

Then add your sauce. I sprinkled in a big pinch of sugar too as hubby likes sweet sauces :)

Mix altogether and simmer until your pasta is ready.

Drain your pasta.

And then add it to your sauce pot. Mix in to get all the pasta coated and pour half the mixture into a lightly oiled 9x13 baking pan.

Sprinkle with a little mozzarella. And pour the remaining half of the pasta mixture over the cheese.

Spread evenly and scatter over more mozzarella cheese (for me, the more the better!) Cover the pan with foil and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake a further five minutes to melt and lightly brown the cheese topping.

A little tip: if you spray one side of your foil with PAM spray or grease it with a little oil and place that side down when covering your pan, the cheese won't stick when you go to take it off. Makes things easier.

Here it is just out of the oven. Look at that ooey cheesy goodness. I could eat it again right now!


tea said...

Looks good and sounds easy, I'll have to try that one too. :)

Claire said...

Oh yummy I bet my kid's would love this one, me too.

Artystitches said...

I make this alot nice and easy, we just call it pasta bake LOL!


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