Friday, January 28, 2011

Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs

I love this recipe--based on the recipe in The Sopranos Family Cookbook. It is time consuming to make all those little mini meatballs, but so worth it in the end! I like to make enough for 2 large pans of ziti--which could also be made into 4 8 x 8 pans to stretch the meals even further.

Ingredients for the Mini-Meatballs (I usually double this recipe, freezing half for a Future Ziti):
  • 1 lb ground meat (I use beef, but want to try a mixture of beef and pork sausage next)
  • 1/2 cup panko (or other dried breadcrumbs)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (or plain old Parmesan)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • (for the frying pan) 2 Tablespoons olive oil
Combine all ingredients (EXCEPT olive oil) in a large bowl. Mix gently with hands until combined. Roll mini meatballs to preferred size--I like the size of a small grape as suggested in the recipe. Try to avoid compressing the meat-roll it very lightly.

Add the olive oil in batches to a large skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat (I find this cooks the meatballs all the way through.) If you are making sauce, you could add the meatballs to the simmering sauce for 30 minutes to cook further/add flavor, then strain them out with a slotted spoon (actually quite easy to do with a thin sauce). Otherwise, place cooked meatballs on a paper towel after cooking. Freeze, refrigerate, or use immediately to assemble Baked Ziti.

Ingredients for Baked Ziti:
  • 5 cups red pasta sauce of choice (or  more)
  • 1 pound Ziti
  • salt (for pasta water)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (or plain old Parmesan), divided
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, cut into small cubes
 Cook ziti as instructed on box, adding salt to water. After draining ziti, return to cooking pot and add approximately 3 cups of sauce. Mix in 1/2 cup grated cheese and mini meatballs, stirring to combine. The pasta will absorb a lot of sauce, so feel free to add more if you have it.

Place half of pasta mixture in 13 x 9 pan (or two 8 x 8 pans). Spread 1 cup ricotta on top, then sprinkle with the mozzarella cubes and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Pour on 1 additional cup of sauce, spreading to lightly cover. Add remining half of pasta mixture, pressing to fit into pan. Pour remaining cup of sauce (or more) on top, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes. Serve with hot crusty bread and salad. Try to save some for leftovers the next day, they're worth it!

No comments: