16 December 2013

Random Recipes and Baked Ziti Straight From the Jumbled Pantry ....

Sometimes one has to dig deep, snuffle around, shift things here and there to come up with all the necessary pieces of the puzzle called 'supper' .... welcome to my pantry cupboard. Well one of them, that is.

It's cold. It's really cold ... but there's snow on the ground right now and SB has taken the chance to burn a HUGE scrap pile of cast off trimmings from his woodcutting activities. He will come in all smoky and red on his front side and cold and clammy on his back side - the hazards of tending a brush pile.  It's a busy time for us both AND for that lovely little chickadee that I caught mid-flap, as he headed out away from the feeders ... see him? Look closely!

While SB started up the brush pile, I took a call from a friend in need of help getting to her doctor's appointment. The cancer treatment center is an all afternoon affair, so THAT meant I needed to put the crock pot in gear if we wanted a warm cozy supper!  I pulled the pantry doors open and pulled out the makings for a tomato sauce, yanked the fridge doors and hauled out cheese and sausage and mushrooms. A bit of slice and dice, a spritz of olive oil and a lump of butter, and a hot pan got things going.

Ziti and sausage! Easy! Last minute prep! Smell the house up good comfort food! YES!

NOTE: That kale was awesome too ... easy ... fast ... washed, ribboned kale leaves, olive oil, butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, and one soft apple that's been peeled, cored and chopped. Wilt everything together for about three minutes over high heat. Add a small splash of water, cover and finish steaming the veg and fruit until the kale tastes right when you test a bite. Yummy! The pasta was the star of the show, though! Here's how I did it ...

Ziti and Sausage - A Classic Italian Comfort Food

Gravy Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, small dice
1- 10 oz. container white mushrooms, brushed clean, stemmed and quartered
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1- 28 oz  can San Marazano tomatoes and juices, fruit crushed in your hands over the pot
1- 15 oz. can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes and juices
1 small can tomato paste, emptied into a four cup measuring cup.
1 heaping tsp. low-sodium chicken broth paste (Better Than Bouillon is my POC) in the same measuring cup
boiling water to make 3 c. broth/paste 
⅛ tsp. powdered marjoram
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
¼ c. dry red wine
1 ½ tsp. sugar

1 lb. Italian sweet sausage, broken into small chunks

For the Baked Ziti:

1 lb. dried ziti pasta
2 c. low-fat ricotta cheese
1 large egg
½ c. freshly grated Asiago cheese (or Parmesan or Romano)
4 – 5 crackers, crumbled to crumbs
Kosher salt and black pepper

1 c. freshly grated mozzarella cheese, for sprinkling

Making the Dish:

  1. Heat a heavy pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, butter, onions, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often until they are glistening and softened.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes and juices and let the tomatoes soak up the spices and oil and butter.
  4. Turn the sauce into the crock pot/slow cooker. Set the temp for ‘LOW’ and the time for ‘8 hours’. Start the timer, cover the pan, and prepare the sausage.
  5. To prep the sausage, clean out the fry pan, and place it over high heat. When the pan is hot, toss the chunks of sausage in and let them brown well before turning them/tossing them to brown the other sides. Let them get a bit ‘crunchy’.
  6. When the sausage is well browned, use a slotted spoon to drain the sausage. Transfer the sausage to the slow cooker sauce.
  7. Meanwhile, boil some water and add the hot water to the tomato paste and chicken broth. Stir the broth together and pour the mix into the tomato sauce, stir well, cover the pot and let it cook for at least 6 hours before removing the cover and stirring, tasting and correcting the seasonings.
  8. To make the final dish, mix the ricotta, egg, Asiago, cracker crumbs, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
  9. Cook the pasta to al dente stage in a deep pasta pot. Drain and have ready.
  10. Grate the mozzarella cheese and have ready.
  11. Rub some olive oil in the bottom and around the edges of a 13 x 9 baking casserole pan.
  12. Scoop some of the gravy into the bottom of the pan and spread it to cover the bottom of the pan.
  13. Scatter ⅓ of the cooked pasta over the sauce.
  14. Use a spoon to place 12 equal dollops of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, scoop two more ladles of sauce over this layer, place the second ⅓ of the noodles over top, more sauce, the last third of the noodles, the rest of the sauce.
  15. Top with the mozzarella cheese.
  16. Tent some foil over top the ziti and bake in a 375° F  oven for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes more - until the cheese is browned a bit.
  17. Serve piping hot with a salad or a side vegetable. 

Shared at Dom's website, Belleau Kitchen for his monthly Random Recipe #35 challenge.


  1. Oh I know this kind of pasta very well and De Cecco brand too; but I guess we have not zita already cut here in Italy.
    We buy zita as long as spaghetti and we cut them using hands before cooking (of course).


    1. Oh! Someday, I would love visit Italy for an extended time to explore the country and cities away from Rome (the only place in Italy that I've been) ... it would be nice to sit down with you, Manuela and share a bowl of pasta!

  2. your pantry is stuffed to the gills with love... there's barely an inch of space for air, how do you get your hands in? It's so wonderful and quite diverse... love the pasta dish too, very homely and pleasing and so tasty... thanks so much for the entry this month xx

    1. Ha! I don't, Dom! I have a good memory of where I shove things so when I need an item, I unload and re-load shelves to access ingredients. Woe be to SB if he putters with the pantry cupboards!

  3. That's two very comforting and cheerful things - lovely pasta and a full cupboard. Just perfect for a winter's day. You've reminded me to go out and fill the bird feeders.

  4. That cupboard is well and truly stuffed Susan, but if you can rustle up such a delicious meal out of it with such little fuss, it obviously works for you.

    Wishing you a Very Happy 2014


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