I am what many would call a "Foodie" - amateurs who simply love food and/or drink for consumption, study, preparation and news.
Now the statement above should make it clear that I do not have any formal training when it comes to food preparation. I have, however, been told that I am a pretty good cook and I hope you enjoy reading this column as much as I enjoy writing it.
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Pasta is one of my favorite foods. It’s great with sauces, cheese, vegetables or just a little garlic and olive oil; it’s also something I can get all of my kids to eat. This next recipe for baked ziti comes from the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond and is very similar to lasagna without all of the fuss.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef (may substitute turkey)
1 pound Italian sausage (may substitute turkey)
2 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce or marinara sauce
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or your favorite herbs)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ziti (I used mostaccioli)
1½ pounds mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)
1 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta (may substitute low fat)
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling (I used a handful of fresh spinach, chopped)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a large casserole or lasagna dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Heat the olive oil (if using ground turkey you may want to use 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil) in a pot over medium heat and add the garlic and onions and sauté about 3 to 4 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until browned. (I like to season the ground meat with salt and pepper for another layer of flavor here.) Drain off most of the fat, leaving a bit behind for moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. (I just used a jar and a half of marinara sauce, about 3 pounds or 36 ounces.) Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes and remove from heat to cool.
While the meat sauce I cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add some salt and the pasta cooking until not quite al dente.
While the pasta and meat sauce are cooking, in a bowl, mix together 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley (spinach), eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times trying not to mix completely.
When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down, then pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to lightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add 3 to 4 cups of the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine.
Add half of the coated pasta to the prepared dish, spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top and 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 sprinkling with chopped parsley (spinach) to serve.
This recipe is very forgiving. Try adding some sautéed mushrooms or another vegetable to it and make it your own.