|Name:||Baked Ziti||Contributor:||Gary Wasserman|
|Description:||Ziti baked with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, garlic, tomato sauce (recipe below), and cheese||Posted:||2006-03-27|
|Key words:||ziti, mushrooms, 'green pepper', onion||Category:||Main Dishes|
|Ingredients:||2 lbs Ziti macaroni, good quality
1 lb part-skim mozzarella, sliced into 20 or so slices
2 c fresh grated parmesan (Italian is best)
1 lb fresh mushrooms (the plain white button ones are fine), sliced in quarters
3 green bell peppers, medium, sliced
1 large Spanish onion (can substitue big sweet onion if available), halved and sliced
1 large can crushed plum tomatoes (with or without basil)
1 small can of tomato paste
1 c of dry red wine
6 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
dried oregano, basil, thyme (or fresh if available)
|Preparation:||Boil sufficient water to cook the 2 lbs of ziti, cook as per package directions for al dente. Do not overcook; it's better for the ziti to be slightly hard. After draining, return to pot and add enough olive oil to keep pasta from sticking together and small amount of salt and pepper. Stir well and cover.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat a big saute pan and when moderately hot, add olive oil and sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and at least one Tbsp of fresh ground pepper. As the mushrooms cook, add sufficient olive oil to keep the pan from drying out. You want the mushrooms reduced but still slightly juicy. Add additional black pepper if needed to flavor the mushrooms (don't get carried away). When the mushrooms are reduced but before all liquid is cooked off, put the mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.
Without cleaning the pan add another few tablespoons of olive oil and then the onions and green peppers. Cook until the onions just start to carmelize and both the peppers and onions are soft. Empty pan into same bowl with cooked mushrooms.
Again, add a tablespoon of oil and cook the garlic very briefly before adding the entire can of crushed tomato and stirring. Then add the can of tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring, and add the wine. Keep cooking until the alcohol is evaporated but avoid burning the sauce onto the pan. Add oregano, basil, and thyme (if dried a tablespoon of each). If fresh a couple of tablespoons of each. Stir in and allow the sauce to simmer with the herbs for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining pepper and salt to taste.
Finally, combine the sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms with the tomato sauce and stir until just boiling then turn the heat off and move off burner. Keep covered.
In a deep pan large enough to hold the noodles and sauce, add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom and spread around. Add a layer of ziti aligning the noodles lengthwise with the pan. The layer should be no more than two noodles deep. Cover the layer with some sauce (make sure you get veggies in proportion) and then cover the sauce with slices of mozzarella. Don't overlap the slices. Just fit them in. Sprinkle several tablespoons of parmesan over the slices. Repeat the process until the pan is filled making sure the last layer is one of cheese.
Cover the pan with aluminium foil but make sure the foil doesn't sit on the cheese or it will stick (you can Pam the foil to cut down on this happening). Put the pan in the hot oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the contents are thoroughly heated (sauce is bubbling). Remove foil and allow top to brown slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool somewhat before serving. A slightly cooler ziti slices better and sticks together better. Serve with green salad and garlic bread.
|Notes:||Freezes very well if wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and sealed with foil before baking. Be sure to defrost some before baking or use a food thermometer to make sure you don't have a frozen middle.
I use loaf pans of which this recipe will generally fill two. They can be obtained with non-stick surfaces which aids serving and cleanup.
This recipe is even better the next day, reheated. If you use a glass loaf pan, you could reheat in the microwave but as I use metal pans I have to reheat in the oven. The next day the flavors are blended together and it just tastes better.
Your vegetarian friends will love this and even the meat eaters in your house will be happy with this. It's filling! It doesn't make a lot of pots dirty, and it's not too expensive (the cheese is the most expensive part).
Don't use that nasty pre-grated parmesan. It has wood fiber added to prevent clumping. Yuck. If you can't get Italian parmesan to grate, then buy whole domestic and grate it yourself.
|Equipment:||A good cheese grater is a big help.|