Baked Ziti with Sausage

Baked Ziti and Sausage | afoodieaffair.com

I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been pretty busy with my Shopafoodieaffair, and er…life. So I thought I’d better make this post good! At this time of the year, it’s all about the comfort food. So when I saw a Lidia’s cooking show on PBS, and she was making Baked Ziti, its was on my mind all week. Of coarse, that got me thinking, I haven’t made pasta in quite a while. I decided to make it the other night. I didn’t take her recipe and make it, but more the concept. And I’ve been cooking for long enough to be able to wing it. I love the sauteed chucks of sausage in the Rigatoni Abruzzi at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, so I decided to make it with sausage. She made hers with zucchini. Tomato, tomaato…

I filled a stockpot with water and a little salt and brought to a boil. I added the pasta and cooked until al dente directions on the label. Drain when cooked (do not rinse). Set aside.

Baked Ziti and Sausage | afoodieaffair.comI started by sauteing some green bell pepper strips, thickly sliced onion and sliced mushrooms in a heavy skillet on medium high to high heat, until slightly browned. I like the veggies chunky rustic style. If you like them smaller, cut them smaller…Then remove from pan, and put it aside.

Then I took the sausage out of the casings, and pinched off large chunks. I added a little olive oil to the pan and sauteed the sausages on medium high to high heat until lightly browned. Make sure to cover to avoid a total mess of your stove top (if that’s possible!). I use a pretty high heat for sauteing, and it takes no time at all since my burners are 25,000 btu. If yours are lower, no problem, just make sure they are slightly browned at least on a side or two. You don’t want them to be brown all over. They won’t look very good, and in my opinion, browned meat ruins the taste of my sauce. Set the sausage aside. For this recipe I used a small amount of hot sausage as well to give it some spice, but its your option to substitute more sweet or any other king in place of it.

Pastene Tomatoes | afoodieaffair.comIn another skillet, I made my Marinara sauce from two cans of Pastene Chunky Crushed Tomatoes, diced onion, garlic, fresh basil and herbs. Viola! Sauce is ready in 15 minutes. You can use jarred sauce if you like…but I think fresh is way better, and takes nothing to make. Don’t be afraid to use herbs. They make or break a dish. Seriously, everything I make has loads of herbs in it. Everything taste flat and boring without them. Once you try this sauce, you’ll never go back! I promise ๐Ÿ™‚

Baked Ziti and Sausage | afoodieaffair.comThen I mixed the sauce, pepper, onion & mushroom mixture and sausages with the pasta. I added some fresh basil to the mixture as well. Its your choice whether to eat as it is, or layer with cheese in a baking dish and bake. I was even thinking of baking and adding some ricotta cheese. Cooking is all about taking a basic recipe or idea, and making it suit your taste and the taste of your family. And with pasta and sauce, how can you go wrong?

Baked Ziti and Sausage | afoodieaffair.com

Baked Ziti with Sausage
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb pasta
  • 4 - 8" sweet sausage links (casings removed)
  • 2 - 4" hot sausage links (casings removed)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small green bell pepper, sliced into thick strips
  • ½ very large onion, Cut into large chunk wedges
  • A handful of whole small mushrooms (any kind), sliced
  • Sauce:
  • 1 small onion, diced very fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 - 28 oz cans Pastene Ground Peeled Tomatoes (I use chunky style)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Handful of fresh basil sliced in a Chiffonade (stack leaves, roll, and slice thinly)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
Instructions
  1. Fill a stockpot with water and a little salt, and bring to a boil. I added the pasta and cooked until al dente directions on the label. Drain when cooked (do not rinse). Set aside.
  2. Saute some green bell pepper strips, thickly sliced onion and sliced mushrooms in a heavy skillet on medium high to high heat, until slightly browned. I like the veggies chunky, rustic style. If you like them smaller, cut them smaller...Then remove from pan, and put it aside.
  3. Then I took the sausage out of the casings, and pinched off large chunks. I added a little olive oil to the pan and sauteed the sausages on medium high to high heat until lightly browned. Make sure to cover to avoid a total mess of your stovetop (if that's possible!). I use a pretty high heat for sauteing, and it takes no time at all since my burners are 25,000 btu. If yours are lower, no problem, just make sure they are slightly browned at least on a side or two. You don't want them to be brown all over. They won't look very good, and in my opinion, browned meat ruins the taste of my sauce. Set the sausage aside. For this recipe I used a small amount of hot sausage as well to give it some spice, but its your option to substitute more sweet or any other king in place of it.
  4. In another skillet, I made my Marinara sauce from two cans of Pastene Chunky Crushed Tomatoes, diced onion, garlic, fresh basil and herbs (you can add a little crushed red pepper if you like it spicy). Viola! Sauce is ready in 15 minutes. You can use jarred sauce if you like...but I think fresh is way better, and takes nothing to make. Don't be afraid to use herbs. They make or break any dish. Seriously, everything I make has loads of herbs in it. Everything taste flat and boring without them. Once you try this sauce, you'll never go back! I promise ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. Then I mixed the sauce, pepper, onion & mushroom mixture and sausages with the pasta. I added some fresh basil to the mixture as well.
  6. You can eat without baking, or as I did for this recipe, I made one layer in a 13" x 9" baking dish, layer with any Italian cheese, layer another layer and top with cheese. Bake until cheese on top is melted (approx 15 minutes).

There’s no way anyone can resist this ooey, gooey, cheesy, saucy, spicy, baked pasta. If you make your sauce ahead and keep in the fridge, it’s just a matter of boiling pasta, sauteing the veggies and sausage, and throwing it all together! Makes plenty for leftovers!

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