Becoming Italian, One Recipe at a Time… Baked Ziti

I married into an Italian family, but I’ll be honest.  It’s been a very slow transition, especially when it comes to the food.  For the longest time, the only meal I cooked that was even close to Italian was my mother’s Midwestern-style spaghetti sauce.  Just for the record, it’s delicious.  However, my husband has long claimed it’s not “real Italian food”.

So, the day came when I finally needed to learn how to make a simple, goes with everything tomato sauce.  It is not the “family recipe”.  If my mother-in-law gave me that recipe she might have to kill me,  and I’m not sure that marinara sauce is worth dying for…  (Plus, if my husband wants to eat his mother’s food, he can go to her house and eat it.  She only lives ten minutes away.)  So I find most of my recipes elsewhere, and then forget where I originally found them…  This is the sauce I use for almost every recipe that calls for marinara sauce, including my baked ziti.

Marinara Sauce:

30 oz tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp chopped onion

3 tbsp brown sugar

Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.  While that is heating, begin assembling the other ingredients…

Baked Ziti:

1 lb ziti, uncooked

3 (ish) cups of marinara sauce (30 oz works fine…)

15 oz ricotta cheese

8 oz shredded mozzarella

1 tbsp parsley

1 egg

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

3 tbsp Parmesan

Heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a large bowl, stir together hot pasta, 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and spices.  Spray 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish with veggie oil and spoon pasta mixture into it.  Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Buon appetito!

To make ahead, cover with plastic wrap and then foil.  Refrigerate up to 24 hours or freeze up to two months.  Thaw frozen version overnight.  Bake with foil over it, and add ten minutes.

*I generally use dried spices.  If you are using fresh, take the dried amounts, and multiply by three.

P.S. I know that no real Italian cook would use dried garlic… but as I said, I’m not really Italian!

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8 Responses to Becoming Italian, One Recipe at a Time… Baked Ziti

  1. Liverwurst says:

    Sounds tasty. No prosciutto? I like lunchmeat.

  2. This recipe makes me wish I still ate wheat…

  3. Baz says:

    IF you want to try something slightly different with the sauce, you can take out the “brown sugar” – swap to “real garlic” (I mean come on, they sell chopped garlic by the truck load for like $3.00 in the produce section, although come to think of it freeze dried garlic is comparable. Any freeze dried herb/spice is delightful) I trust your experience may be enhanced just slightly.
    I’ll make a 5min sauce using the same ingredients mentioned above (minus the brown sugar, and perhaps a bit more liberal with the garlic) and it almost nearly tastes like my Italian Gramma’s.
    Found your blog on account Heath is one of my old friends and he recommended you. Great stuff so far! I’ll be one of your new fans!
    Cheers

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