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Joe

REC's: Tomato-Sausage Sauce and Baked Ziti

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Joined: Dec 14, 2005

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Posted to Thread #2033 at 2:03 am on May 24, 2006

This is a baked ziti recipe from Anna Casale's "Italian Family Cooking. I've made the ziti several times and it's very good, but I make the sauce all the time as my standby meat sauce to toss with spaghetti or linguini. The combination of fennel, basil and nutmeg make it a bit unusual. I'll include my own tweaks:

BAKED ZITI
Ziti al Forno

TOMATO-SAUSAGE SAUCE

1/4 cup olive oil (I use less)
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 Tbs. dry red wine
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage with fennel seed, removed from casings and crumbled
1-1/2 tsp mince garlic
2 cans (28 oz. each) concentrated crushed tomatoes (I use TJ's plum tomatoes and puree them in a blender)
2 Tbs. minced fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried, crumbled
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I use a little more, to taste)
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt (I use less, to taste)
1 tsp. freshly milled black pepper

(Anna has you simmer the sausage in the wine in a small saucepan until all liquid is absorbed, drain the grease and add to the sauce with the tomatoes. I do it all in one pan):

In a large saute pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until soft but not brown. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes. Add wine, then sausage, and saute, breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon, until liquid is absorbed and meat is just starting to brown. Remove from heat, tilt the pan and spoon out excess fat.

Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, stirring, then turn heat down to low and simmer partially covered, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 40 minutes.

(The sauce is delicious with plain pasta and Romano cheese.)

FILLING:

1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
2 Tbs. minced Italian parsley leaves

Combine ricotta and eggs and blend with a fork.
Blend in remaining ingredients.

TO ASSEMBLE AND COOK:

1 lb. ziti
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, plus more for serving.

Cook ziti in 6 quarts boiling water with 1 Tbs. salt until barely tender. Drain and toss in a bowl with the butter. In the bowl, divide the pasta into 3 portions.

In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch ovenproof casserole (I use a 10 x 15 Pyrex--it won't fit in the 9 x 13) spread a very thin layer of sauce. Arrange one portion of ziti in a single layer. Spoon half the filling over pasta and spread with a metal spatula into as even a layer as possible. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over filling and sprinkle with a third of the Romano cheese.

Continue with another third of the ziti, the rest of the filling, a layer of sauce, and another third of the Romano cheese. finish with the rest of the ziti, a layer of sauce, and the rest of the cheese.

(Can be assembled a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Let it return to room temperature before baking.)

Bake at 350*F until lightly crusty on top, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Cut into squares and serve with remaining sauce and additional Romano cheese.



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