Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bit of Flavor Baked Ziti with Sausage


Bit of Flavor Baked Ziti
Ingredient List is at the end...

Mmmmmm...  I just LOVE Baked Ziti!
I normally make a meatless version, but I happened to have some Sweet Italian Sausage that I wanted to use up, so I went with this hearty version.
Step One - Prepare the pasta.
I boiled an entire 1 pound box of ziti pasta.  You can also use penne pasta, if that's what you have on hand.  The main idea is that you want a short and sturdy noodle that will be perfect for collecting and holding the cheesy sauce.
Follow directions on box, and finish to al dente.

Step Two - Prepare the sauce.
This step involves several smaller steps...
While your pasta is boiling, chop up some onion.  I used about 1/2 of a large white onion, and chopped it fairly fine.

Brown 1/2 - 1 pound of Sweet/Mild Italian Sausage.

A quick little side trip to share my latest favorite kitchen item:
Check your pasta - I bet it's ready!
Drain it, and set is aside.

And now I bet your sausage is ready!

Add the chopped onion, and quickly brown it.

Season it up!
I added salt and pepper, some freshly ground garlic & herb mix, and some Italian seasonings.  Stir well.

Pour on the sauce!
Use a jar or can of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce, or go with your own homemade sauce if you prefer.
In general, I use Hunts sauces.  My family likes them and they are low-cost.
I went with the Traditional version tonight; we also like the Four Cheese and the Garlic & Onion flavors.
Before you continue, take a couple of scoops of sauce and spread on the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.

Here is one of my favorite parts - It's time to add the cheese!!
Plop in one container of ricotta cheese, one cup of shredded mozzarella, and one cup of grated parmesan.

Stir well to combine.
Mmmm...  That sure looks good!

Step Three - Put it all Together!
Pour your drained pasted over the sauce in your prepared dish.
Add your meaty cheesy sauce.
Stir gently through, to combine.
Pat down just a bit to form an even top layer.

Put the dish into a 350 degree oven.
Bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, check to be sure that your Baked Ziti has a nice slightly browned top.
Grab your biggest scoop and enjoy!

Serve with a tossed salad and some garlic bread.
(Yes, we splurged and had Texas Toast with ours!)
1 lb box of Ziti or Penne Pasta
1 White Onion
1/2-1 lb Italian Sweet or Mild Sausage
Salt & Pepper, Garlic Powder, Italian Seasonings
1 jar or can of Spaghetti Sauce
1 16oz container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
Remember ~ Life tastes better with a bit of flavor!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bit of Flavor Pasta and Cheese

Bit of Flavor Pasta and Cheese

Ingredient List is at the end...
I don't know about you, but I love cheese!!
And Macaroni and Cheese - REAL Macaroni and Cheese - well, it just doesn't get much better than this!
I have a quick and simple version that makes an excellent comfort-food meal, or it can be used as a side-dish at your next family dinner.
Be sure to make extra - you'll want some again tomorrow!
Step One - Prepare a pound of pasta.
Feel free to use any shape you like.  I usually go for the small shells - I love the way they act like little scoops for the creamy cheesy sauce!
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, going for an al dente finish.

Step Two - While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese.
I make my pasta and cheese using whatever cheese I have on hand - american, cheddar, muenster, swiss, provolone, mozzarella...  It's all good!
Stick with one flavor, or blend a few.
You can also use any format, such as pre-shredded, chunk, or sliced.
This particular night, I went with cheddar, provolone, and swiss.
For ease of use when cooking, you want small pieces of cheese.
I like cutting things, and thought you'd enjoy seeing what I did.  :)

See?  Lots of little pieces of delicious cheese!
Check your pasta - It should be just about ready!
Drain it, and set it aside.  You'll need it soon!

Step Three - Prepare the creamy sauce.
First, you melt some butter over medium heat.
Start with 3 tbsp, adding a little more if you feel the need.
To keep clean-up light, I just use the same pot I used to cook the pasta.
Once the butter has melted, slowly add your flour, stirring constantly.
You should need anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour.

This looks just right!

Next, add your milk, stirring constantly.

Add all of the cheese, still stirring constantly.
Continue heating and stirring just until cheese melts.

Add your choice of seasonings.
I used some of our favorite (Butt Rub), a little garlic powder, and a couple of dashes of salt and pepper.
Give it all a good stir.

Step Four - Add the pasta to the creamy cheesy sauce, and combine well.
Pour it all into a casserole dish, and pop into a 350 degree oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.
While your pasta and cheese is baking, toss a steak (that of course you've been marinating all day) on the grill.
You can also put together a nice tossed salad or other side dish.
After 30-35 minutes, remove the pasta from oven, and add breadcrumbs or panko or other topping as desired. 
Mine is only on half, so there is some pasta and cheese for those who like a topping, and some for those who don't.
Turn the oven up to 425, and pop the dish back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Everything should be ready, so tuck in your napkin, grab your best fork, and enjoy!
Bit o' Pasta and Cheese
16 oz box of pasta
12-16 oz cheese
3-4 tbsp butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour
1 cup lowfat milk
Chef's Choice of Seasoning
Breadcrumbs, Panko, or other topping
Remember ~ Life is better with a bit of flavor!