What’s for dinner? Baked Ziti Edition

29 Apr

Last night we had company. I love having people over for dinner. I think it is a great way to get to know someone better, and hey, it is usually more cost effective and less caloric than eating out. That would be a win-win-win, folks. But every time I have someone over, I have to sift through my recipes to find company-approved dishes. Dishes that will definitely feed everyone and dishes that will make people think you are a good cook even if it was really easy to whip up. I found my solution in the form of a Baked Ziti recipe from my Taste of Home casserole booklet. To complete the meal, I also prepared a salad, garlic toast and one of my favorite desserts, Mexican Chocolate Cake. Please read on, I’m willing to share my secrets on this easy, yet delicious meal.

Mexican Chocolate Cake. It's good, trust me.

First off, let me explain that while this is an easy meal, it is somewhat time consuming. It takes about 20 minutes of prepping followed by 45-ish minutes of baking. So make sure you have the time for both when you commit to this dish. Ok, public service announcement over.

1. Here’s everything you need. Ok, I’m done! Wait, I guess I’ll explain a bit more.

2. By the way, the recipe calls for 1 ¾ C sauce. You can certainly use a store bought jar, but I used my homemade marinara. If you want to try it out, see the details here under “The Sauce” heading. As a bonus, the sauce recipe makes enough to use in two meals. I used this batch for this dish and a pizza the night before. Ok, Pizza Sauce pimping announcement over.

3. Now back to the dish! Cook three cups pasta, according to the package. I couldn’t find ziti at my local grocer, so I used penne pasta. Any smaller tube pasta will do. But I think Baked Ziti has a better ring than Baked Penne, so I’m sticking with the original no matter how inaccurate.

Buster, hater of boiling water.

3. Meanwhile, get out a large mixing bowl and combine the following ingredients.

¾ C sauce

1 C cottage cheese

1 C mozzarella

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp dried parsley

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp pepper

Looks appetizing, no?

4. Now as the pasta is finishing up, take time to grease an 8-in square dish and preheat the oven to 375.

5. When it is time, drain the pasta and then add it to your cheese mixture.  Mix it up.

Now we’re talking!

6. Baked Ziti is all in the layering. So now, it is time to assemble those delectable layers.

First add ¼ cup of sauce, or enough to cover the bottom of the dish. I’ve found it is hard to over-sauce.

Next add your noodle/cheese mixture.

Then top with another ¼ C of sauce. Again, add more if you have more.

Then add another healthy handful of mozzarella.

7. The final layer isn’t that exciting; cover the dish with foil, then bake at 375 for 45 minutes. You can cut that down to less if you are pressed for time. I’d say 30 would do it.

8. Then, uncover dish and bake for 5 more minutes so everything gets bubbly.

9. EAT! Please accept my apologies for not taking a picture of the final product. But I can offer the aftermath of this morning. Here’s the noodle goodness that’s left after 4 dinner portions and 1 lunch portion have been taken. Looks like I have a good lunch coming up. So all in all, I’d say that about 6 adults could indulge in this dish.

That’s it for today! I hope you all have a good weekend! I’ll be back Monday with some more quality material.

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