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Baked Ziti like no other!

Last Saturday Morning while planning out our weekend we were watching Food Network and the Pioneer Woman was on.  We will watch the her show occasionally if we find an interesting recipe on there, but generally this is not one of our regular shows that we might DVR for later viewing.  Yeah, you guessed it … the Barefoot Contessa and Giada might get taped if it looks like something new. But she made a baked ziti dish that was more than just ziti, sauce and cheese.  This was a layered casserole where the ziti was pre-coated with the cheese and the sauce was home made.  It looked like a hearty dish to make and serve with a green salad.

We made our Saturday trip to the grocery store and got all the necessary supplies to make this dish.  Saturday night was already taken up by our Daughter’s friends coming over to get ready for the Sadie Hawkins dance at school so we didn’t want to make the ziti for Saturday night.  We picked up extra sausage and cheese  so that I could whipped up an old recipe I had for Sausage roll and ordered some pizza for the kids to have while they got ready.

Our daughter on the far left and her friends

So Sunday after church we began the prep work of making the sauce.  While that was cooling we ran off to our son’s basketball game.  Following the game we brought a friend of his home for dinner.  Once we got home we got right to work in finishing up this dish,.  Time was limited because we had tickets to a local college basketball game, but dinner came together relatively quick.  The ziti was delicious and it will spoil me for any other ziti dish I have now.  A very hearty dish and plenty of leftovers, two nights worth to be exact.

The Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
Two 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce or marinara sauce
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ziti
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella, grated
One 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
2 eggs

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove 3 to 4 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before

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