I have really hit the motherlode with the cooking this week. First the baked ziti, then an amazing pot roast, and even tonight a quick pineapple chicken bake that was really yummy! And none of it was particularly hard. I guess the pot roast was the hardest thing, since it required a long cooking time — but the prep was super easy. Brown the meat, soften some veggies in the fat left in the pot, put the roast back into the pot with beef broth and chicken broth, and braise in the oven for three and a half hours while flipping the roast every 30 minutes. Chop up more veggies (potatoes, parsnips, and carrots), chuck into the pot with the meat, and braise for another hour. Remove the veggies and meat from the pot and let the meat rest. Add some dry red wine to the liquid left in the pot and reduce into a flavorful jus.
It was simply amazing. Seriously. It was so good that as we were eating, Kurt kept saying, “Did you have the meat??” And he wouldn’t quit talking about it! We finished the last of it for lunch today, and we were both so sad to see it gone.
I might have to make a pot roast as soon as I get back from California next week!
I’ve had several requests for the recipe for the baked ziti. And here you think I have forgotten! It is really easy. I assure you that if you can boil pasta, you can make this dish. Bonus! It’s meat-less, so it’s great for vegetarians.
Baked Ziti with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour (includes 20 minutes baking time)
In this baked pasta dish, melted mozzarella provides the binding for the pasta and other ingredients. Use fresh mozzarella if possible, because it will add a nice creaminess and moisture to the dish. Other short tubular pastas, such as rigatoni or penne, can be substituted for the ziti.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for oiling the dish
2 garlic cloves
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 pound ziti
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for the ziti.
2. Meanwhile, cook 1 tablespoon oil and the garlic in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in the basil, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the ziti. Cook, stirring often, until the ziti is almost tender but still a little firm to the bite.
4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the ziti and return it to the pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and toss to coat. Add the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce.
5. Spread half the ziti in an oiled 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan cheese. Spread the remaining ziti in the dish and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
6. Bake until the cheeses turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 miuntes before serving.
Doesn’t that sound delicious? Seriously, if you can afford it, definitely spring for the fresh mozzarella. It makes the dish. Of course, you can’t shred fresh mozzarella. I chopped it up, then rubbed it between my fingers as I dropped it onto the hot ziti. That’s how you get that amazing stringy, melty cheese.
Try it out, and let me know how it goes for you!