Again, this evening I am not cooking. I’m at a meeting because I’m high-speed and important like that. The family is having leftovers and a rotisserie chicken from Costco. Since I knew about the meeting I actually planned ahead (for once) so you all could have a recipe tonight. You’re welcome.
We had this last Friday. I call it baby ziti.
Not because I use small noodles.
Not because it is made with babies.
I call it that because it’s an excellent dish to make after someone has a baby. It’s one of those universally liked and rarely allergy inducing dishes. It reheats well and is a snap to put together. There used to be a recipe for it on the back of the Mueller’s brand ziti, but it’s not anymore so I’ve had to do it from memory for years.
They don’t sell Mueller’s in the tundra anyway. In fact, I can’t even find ziti here. Stupid Alaska.
1 box ziti (or other tube pasta, preferably without ridges), cooked al dente and drained. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs. dried oregano
1 tbs. dried basil
1 tbs. dried parsley
salt & pepper
2 jars Paul Newman Brand Sockarooni sauce
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
I’m going to give you a little cutting lesson. Sometimes I assume that the way I do things is the way everyone does them. I’m always surprised when I find out that is not the case. Since I know you all really want to be like me, (drunk and cooking dinner for six) I’ll let you in on how I chop onions and garlic. I learned this from Alton Brown.
To chop an onion, first cut the top off. Not to be confused with the hairy bottom. (Get your minds out of the gutter) The top is what is showing in the above picture.
Once you have done that you can lay it on the flat side on your cutting board and cut it in half, this time cutting through the hairy bottom. The bottom is what holds the onion together, keeping it together is key to easy chopping. This is also the right time to peel off the outer skin.
Now slice it in half again, this time leaving the bottom intact.
Next slice the onion long ways so it is the width that you want in your chopped pieces.
Now you can slice across the onion making little chopped pieces. I don’t know how to get them all uniform size, you’ll have to ask Alton Brown.
Chopping garlic is the exact same process, with the added step of peeling the skin. You could buy those big jars of pre-peeled garlic, but it’s cheating. Also, they’re gross looking. I always think of giant maggots when I see them. Ick. Lucky for you Alton Brown taught me an easy way to get the skin off garlic. Just smash is first.
Seriously. Place it on the cutting board and use the back of your knife to smash it.
Now that you are a Ginsu knife master, back to the baby ziti.
Place the meat, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large skillet.
Saute until meat is cooked through. I drain the meat in a colander to get all the oil out and wipe the pan with a paper towel.
Place the drained meat mixture back in the pan and add the 2 jars of sauce. Unless you are using some fabulous homemade sauce it is imperative that you use the Paul Newman Sockarooni sauce. It is awesome. Awesome sauce. Awesomesauce.
Also, add in the cup of reserved cooking water from the pasta. I know it looks gross, trust me. Bring that to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add in the drained pasta and toss to coat.
You could serve it just like this. I’ve done it, no one ever died.
It’s better if you sprinkle the cheese on top (because everything is better with cheese!) and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I like to sprinkle a little basil and oregano on top of the cheese. It doesn’t taste like anything, but it looks pretty.
Good enough for Tony Soprano.