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Baked Ziti

Again, another quarantine dish! I’m not too big of a pasta girl, but when I do make pasta, I go all the way in! I typically make lasagna but decided to stir things up a bit and do a baked ziti. My original plan was to use the mozzarella that I had in the fridge and the three-cheese pre-made pasta sauce in my pantry. However, as I was planning this recipe out, I decided to stop by my local grocery store to get some ricotta and parmesan to spice things up a bit. I already had some crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, so I used that instead of the pre-packaged sauce idea and I wasn’t too mad about it....I liked how I could manipulate the flavors a bit more. Honey was added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, and I added a bit of salt to make up for the lack of salt in the canned tomatoes. To add, the use of fennel in the ziti has my heart as I absolutely love the essence that fennel can bring to any dish. This dish was especially fun to make since I prepared it on Instagram Live. Interacting with my family and friends while cooking was such a heart warming experience and it this is honestly just the beginning! When you’re preparing this dish yourself, make sure that you season it to your liking. If you like garlicky food, go ham on the garlic powder, and if you like spice, add more red pepper flakes! It's up to you!!! Also, don’t be shy on the cheese...after all it is baked ziti:) Happy cooking! Xo, Za

Author: Zaza

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


Tools:

  • Medium-large pan

  • Medium-large pot

  • 10-12 inch casserole dish

  • Cookie sheet

  • 4 bowls (3 small, 1 medium)


Ingredients:

  • ½ pound ground turkey

  • ¼ pound italian chicken sausage (about 2 links)

  • 3 c penne noodles

  • 1 28 oz can of unsalted crushed roma tomatoes

  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 c shredded parmesan cheese

  • 1 ½ c whole milk ricotta cheese

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 3 sprigs parsley

  • ½ medium white onion

  • 6 garlic cloves

  • Olive oil

  • Dried basil

  • Fennel seeds

  • Sea salt

  • Crushed red pepper

  • Garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. To prep, dice onion, mince garlic, and place in the same small bowl. Destem parsley, finely chop, and set aside in a separate small bowl. Finely chop sausage and place in another small bowl. 3. Fill pot with water about ¾ way, then add salt, about 1 tbsp of olive oil (so noodles won’t stick together), and boil. Once water begins to boil, add noodles and cook until they’re tender. Strain noodles, run in cool water to stop the cooking process, then set aside. 4. In the large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley (leave about 1 tsp for garnish) , 1 tbsp garlic powder, and salt to taste. Set aside.

5. Set pan on medium- high heat and add about 4 tbsp of olive oil or enough so that the pan is evenly coated. Once oil is heated, add about ½ tbsp salt, ½ tbsp of crushed red pepper (add more if you like it spicy!), 2 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tbsp dried basil, and ½ tbsp fennel. Stir seasonings in oil, allowing the flavors to marry for about a minute, then add garlic and onions. After the garlic and onions release their oils (when you begin to smell them!), add the turkey meat (if meat begins to stick to the bottom of the pan at any point, add more olive oil). Change heat setting to medium (4-5) and allow the turkey to brown. After about 8 minutes, add chicken sausage. 6. After three minutes or when the sausage begins to brown, add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and honey. Mix until the tomatoes are combined with sausage and turkey. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste the sauce, and adjust seasonings as necessary. (More than likely, you will need a bit more salt as the canned tomatoes are unsalted).


7. Grease a casserole dish with olive oil. Next, spread a layer of the turkey + tomato sauce, a sprinkle of both parmesan and mozzarella cheese (2 sprinkles of mozzarella for every 1 sprinkle of parmesan) until the sauce is covered, and about 5 dollops of the ricotta mixture. Next add a layer of noodles. Repeat this process until you are at the top of the casserole dish, then cover the top with mozzarella cheese (no parmesan!).


8. Place on a cookie sheet, so the sauce does not spill into the oven. Bake for 22 minutes, and then set the oven to broil. Keep an eye on the dish and once the cheese begins to brown, remove from the oven immediately. Garnish with parsley and serve!


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