Monday, February 23, 2015

Make-Ahead Baked Ziti

So you gotta feed a lot of people, they can be picky eaters, it is a work day... My answer Baked Ziti. My mom makes this dish for every holiday, and she tops it with a Bechamel sauce. I did not do the topping... alas, I am a loser. No, I am not a looser because I make a rocking Bolgnese sauce with here is the kicker fresh rosemary. What is great about this dish is you can make it the night before and store it in the fridge and just pull it out an hour before dinner. The cook times will vary... 

Baked Ziti Room Temperature: 400 F 45 mins (covered with foil, uncover the last 15 minutes) 
Baked Ziti Fridge Cold: 400 F 1 hour and 45 mins (covered with foil, uncover the last 15 minutes) 
Baked Ziti Frozen: 400 F 2 hours and 45 mins (covered with foil, uncover the last 15 minutes) 

What you need: 

1 pound (16 oz) of ground beef
4 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 yellow onions
2 bunches of rosemary
6 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 pound of ziti cooked just under al dente
1 cup of reserved pasta cooking liquid

What you do: 

1. Prep the ingredients: wash all of the produce.
2. Get out your equipment: put a large pot of salted water to boil the pasta. Plug in your food processor. Get your trusty knife and cutting board. Put a colander in the sinkGet a large saucepan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium heat.
3. Prep your aromatics: Peel the onion and the carrot. Rough chop the onion, carrots and celery. Place in your food processor to do a small dice. Put in your hot sauce pan with the olive oil.  Smash the garlic and peel the paper off. Place in a food processor.  Add to your hot pan. Season with salt and pepper.  
4. Flavor flave: add the tomato paste and stir in the pan until it is dark burgundy
5. Cook the beef: add the beef and stir until cooked. Turn off the heat.  Add half the Parmesan. Stir. Season with salt and pepper.  
6. Make your pasta: add your pasta to your big pot of and cook for two minutes less than the package directs.
7. Drain your pasta: save 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta in the colander
8. Prep your baking dish: Add your sauce to your baking dish. Add the almost cooked pasta. Add enough of the pasta cooking water to make the dish have a saucy but not watery consistency. Top with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.
9. Freeze, fridge or cook: Now if you are smart and making this bake ahead of time, now is the time to cover it with foil and put it in the fridge or freezer. If you are lazy lady like me, pop it in the oven until the dish comes together and the top is crispy. 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

I served this dish to my in-laws for the first night in town with a Caesar salad and nice Super Toscana wine.  

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking!

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