This recipe comes from the Sopranos. As in Tony and Carmela. As in the blockbuster HBO series which I sort of missed, I’m afraid. But never mind. Apparently there was a cookbook inspired by the food on the show. (If I’d known food featured so prominently, I might’ve watched it.)
This baked ziti is classic Italian-American cheesy-tomatoey-starchy fare. It’s hearty and warming in all the right ways. So much so that an Oregonian might just wish for a cold, rainy day to set the mood for tucking into a steaming plate of this creamy, sausage-laden goodness. If you live in Oregon, you realize just how pathological that is.
Would you believe I’ve never eaten baked ziti before last night? Lasagna? I’ve made hundreds. Penne tossed with just about everything under the sun? Yes. I’ve eaten enough spaghetti noodles to wrap twice around the equator. But somehow baked ziti never once made it onto my radar until I read this recipe on The Hungry Dog and started drooling.
I made a 9 x 13 pan of baked ziti weighing about thirty pounds. That’s for two of us, so it looks like we’ll be eating it for awhile, which works for me. (Yes, there are three in my family. But my child doesn’t like cheese. How is this possible?)
So, if you want to pretend you’re Tony Soprano, go ahead and tuck a napkin into your collar. Now imagine savoring your baked ziti after a long, tiring day of drinking in strip joints and brutally murdering people who crossed you. No one appreciates how hard it is to be a mob boss. It’s a thankless job. But surely this much ricotta and mozzarella and parmesan can smooth your ruffled mobster feathers. Or at least weigh them down for awhile. Mangia.
BAKED ZITI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage (I used half sweet and half spicy)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c. dry red wine
35 ounces canned tomatoes, chopped with their juices
1/4 c. fresh oregano OR 2 T. dried oregano
1 c. fresh ricotta (I used whole milk ricotta, oh yeah…)
1 c. grated parmesan
1/3 c. chopped Italian parsley
1 lb ziti
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella sliced thin
Preheat the oven to 425. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with about 1 T. olive oil. Remove sausage from its casing and crumble. Set aside.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Turn up heat to medium high and add sausage; brown for about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.
Add wine and let it reduce for about 6 minutes or until it is almost gone.
Add tomatoes and their juices and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the oregano and stir well. Remove from heat.
Cook pasta until just barely al dente. (Do not cook completely). Drain. Toss pasta with ricotta, parmesan, and parsley. Add tomato and sausage sauce and toss again.
Pour the mixture into the baking dish, sprinkle with remaining parmesan, and dot with mozzarella. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.