Thursday, April 27, 2006

More Cooking

So it looks like I'll be cooking for Aly again this weekend. I can't think of too many other ways I'd rather spend a Saturday. What's for the eats? Why baked ziti, of course. It's good stuff. And I finally wrote up a recipe. Which I will now share with you, our loyal readers.

Jude’s Ass-Kicking Baked Ziti

Pots and shit:

13” x 9” Pyrex baking dish
3 quart or larger saucepan
7 quart or larger stockpot for cooking pasta
Wooden spoons (as always)
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Cheese grater
Big-ass mixing bowl

For the sauce:

Olive oil
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, your call)
½ medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can (or 2 14 oz. cans) diced tomatoes, drained (I like Muir Glen, no salt added)
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
½ teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
Pinch red pepper flakes
Black pepper
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt (or less, if you like less)

For the pasta:

1 lb cut ziti (I like Barilla)
1 Tablespoon salt
At least one gallon of water
Olive oil

And the cheese:

1 lb fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in water is the absolute best)—cube half, thinly slice the other half
½ cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (please get fresh and grate it yourself—that shit out of the can is beyond wretched, and any pre-grated stuff isn’t great, either)

Now get cooking, fool

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Do you have a thermometer to check? You should, ya dumb bastard.

Cook the pasta al dente, in liberally salted water, as per the directions on the package. Drain and rinse to keep from cooking any further. Toss with a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside.

Start the sauce. Heat about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in your saucepan over medium-high heat. A nice, heavy saucepan is what you want. That cheap, light shit isn’t worth fucking with. The heavier, the better. When your pan is nice and hot, add your red pepper flakes and 1 lb. of sausage. Break it up with your wooden spoon. What’s that? You don’t have wooden spoons? Jesus. What’s wrong with you? For those of you who aren’t foolish, break up the sausage with your wooden spoon and brown it good. When it’s nice and brown, add the onion and garlic and fry them up, about 3 or 4 more minutes. Add a pinch of salt when frying the onions and garlic. Throw in your herbs and let them bloom in the oil. Finally, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Or longer. Just stir it occasionally, so it doesn’t burn.

Oil your Pyrex dish. Whatever kind of oil you want. I give a shit.

In your big-ass mixing bowl, combine the pasta, tomato sauce, cubed mozzarella, half the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little more black pepper. What? It’s good stuff. Screw you. Turn out into the Pyrex dish, and level it out. Cover with the sliced mozzarella and the rest of the grated parm. If you want a real treat, put a layer of fresh basil leaves down before you cover the stuff with the sliced cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until everything’s nice and hot and the cheese is starting to brown lightly on top. If it’s getting too brown, just cover it with foil.

Let it sit for just a bit before you serve it. It freezes real well, too.

Serve with a good salad, hot bread, and a nice red wine. I like the Louis Jadot Beaujolais. Yeah, yeah. It ain’t Italian, but neither is baked ziti. That’s all-American, baby.

You want nutritional information? If you do, you’ve come to the wrong place, brother. Keep moving.

Buon appetito, peoples.

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