Family Style Meal-Baked Ziti-Recipe
And a Little Mood Music
Having a family meal is important. Making time for friends and family is always something everyone should do. Italian cooking is always one of the best ways to prepare a big meal for a lot of people and no one leaves the table hungry. Baked Ziti is always a good choice. It is hearty, full of flavor and feeds a small army.
Coming from a huge family, feeding a small army is something that had to be done on a daily basis. It's always crazy to have everyone sitting around a big table: talking and laughing and just having a really good time. It is important to share this kind of experience with people you love. It instills a sense of belonging and enrichment in young children that when they grow up they want to do it too. Having family traditions is never a bad thing.
Here's a list of everything you need when you make this huge family style meal.
- 1 package of 6-8 Italian sausage links. Mild works well, unless you want it more or less spicy.
- 1 pound package of ground hamburger.
- half of 1 red, 1 green, and 1 orange bell pepper all sliced approximately to the same size.. a large Julienne
- 1 medium-Large size onion, diced or a fine chop
- 1-2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce.
- 1-2 8oz or 1 16 oz container of ricotta cheese
- about 1 pound of shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1 pound box of Ziti pasta
- 2 cloves of garlic diced.
- 2 tablespoons of dried basil
You want to start this off with your meats. Go ahead of fry up your Italian sausages and set them aside. Then in the same pan add your hamburger meat to that with a little salt and pepper. Set aside with your sausage. The sausage links you will want to cut in bite size pieces or 1/2 inch thick slices.
Boil your water for your pasta, salt liberally... add pasta and cook until al dente, drain
You will want to start to sweat your onions now with a little salt . Allow the onions to turn transparent then your garlic as well as your peppers and allow them to soften slightly.
Time to Assemble
Now comes the fun part. Mixing everything together is always the best part but layering is fine too. I prefer mixing to make sure everything gets incorporated completely.
You need 2 large casserole dishes... preheat your oven to 350°
Mix together in a large mixing bowl your sausage, hamburger meat, pasta, onions, pepper mix, about a cup and a half of Mozzarella, and ricotta. Add an even amount of mixture to both casserole dishes and top with a generous amount of sauce and Mozzarella. Place in oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until heated all through and the cheese is melted and golden.
The preparation of this dish only SEEMS more daunting then it really is when you have the ingredients laying on the counter in front of you. But just going for it full force and believing in yourself is really all it takes. I went head first into this dish once with just a rudimentary knowledge of what the dish contained and ran with it. Never having had it before, let alone made it before I was pleasantly surprised with the results. This dish can be altered by adding more vegetables and less meat or no meat at all. The addition of eggplant is one of the most common of all the vegetables. You can also add Parmesan cheese as well, as it pairs nicely with Pasta of any kind.
One of the most common and healthiest choices for a pasta dish side is salad. You don't have to go fancy, just add what you like or buy a prepared and add your extras.
Another good side is garlic bread. If you prefer a light garlic bread take a loaf of French or Italian bread cut in half toast in the oven and generously rub with cut garlic and top with a little butter if you choose. This will infuse a light garlic flavor without the heavy butter added.
Another option is making your own garlic butter.. all you have to do is melt half a stick of butter in a pain and let is simmer with a few pieces of garlic in the butter and allow it time to infuse. Spread this over your toasted bread or use as a dip for your bread.
The easy way out is to take your bread and use a room temperature butter or spreadable margarine on the cut sides of the bread and sprinkle with a heavy dusting of garlic powder and toast in the over until brown.
For the Adults.
For the wine drinkers of the family it is never a bad idea to have something on hand with your Italian meals if you want to have a dinner party and make it a little more formal. You always want to pair a tomato based dish with a highly acidic Italian red. You want something that will not be over powered by the acid in the tomato or your palate will be overwhelmed making your wine taste dull and flat.Red wines such as barbera, dolcetto, and valpolicella have tangy acidity and bright fruit, making them perfect companions to tomato-based pasta dishes. Avoid heavy, tannic reds, as these tend to clash with tomatoes.