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Baked Ziti recipe anyone?

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yaddayadda Jan 29, 2009 11:53 AM

I am intrigued by the nearly continuous references to Baked Ziti on the Sopranos. Never had nor made it and, of course, I'd like an authentic recipe -- as close as possible to what mama would make back home. Thanks.

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  1. HaagenDazs RE: yaddayadda Jan 29, 2009 12:16 PM

    I'm pretty sure that baked ziti is one of those Italian-American dishes that isn't really represented "back home." You know the whole red sauce, spaghetti and meatballs kind of thing.

    Baked ziti is basically lasagna that is all mixed up with little pasta instead of put in a dish with layers of pasta sheets. I'd say this recipe is perfectly acceptable. You could maybe add some sausage to it if you want.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/fo...

    7 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs
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      pemma RE: HaagenDazs Jan 29, 2009 12:27 PM

      There are various versions, usually some combination of ziti, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, grated cheese, possible sausage.

      1. re: HaagenDazs
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        jules127 RE: HaagenDazs Jan 29, 2009 12:27 PM

        I agree with HD, but here is the recipe from the Sopranos cookbook. http://www.recipezaar.com/Ziti-Al-For...

        1. re: HaagenDazs
          b
          bob96 RE: HaagenDazs Jan 29, 2009 08:59 PM

          Pasta al forno is well represented, especially in Southern Italy, where it's usually lighter and less monumental than the American version--typically, a short pasta like ziti, mixed with a plain sauce, grated cheese, maybe small meatballs, grated pecorino, mozzarella (often), maybe eggplant slices or cubes, and not always much ricotta. In Sicily, this category of pasta 'ncasciata has many more luscious variations, including anelli al forno, made with small pasta that resembles the rings after which it's named. Viana La Piace's La Bella Cucina has some nice recipes from Puglia.

          1. re: bob96
            t
            tmso RE: bob96 Jan 30, 2009 08:21 AM

            I have no idea how I missed this response the first time around, but: yeah, what he said. Not much need for my post below (although Bob here did forget potatoes).

          2. re: HaagenDazs
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            tmso RE: HaagenDazs Jan 30, 2009 05:46 AM

            << I'm pretty sure that baked ziti is one of those Italian-American dishes that isn't really represented "back home." >>

            Sorry to disappoint you, but it most certainly does come from the peninsula. In addition to the versions from my family that I posted below, there are certainly plenty of variations of ragù, besciamella, cheese, sausage, potatoes, meatballs, and/or eggplant tossed with pasta and baked in endless variations all around the southern half of the country.

            1. re: tmso
              HaagenDazs RE: tmso Feb 11, 2009 12:32 PM

              Hey folks, everything is based on something.

              I'm not saying that baked ziti or spaghetti & meatballs didn't arise out of real Italian cookery, I'm just saying that many, if not most of the recipes that someone will find online or here does not consist of anything that you would find in a small Italian village. My claim is further strengthened by the fact that the Cooks Illustrated recipe describes it as an Italian-American favorite. I'm not saying it's good or bad, I'm only saying that the version most people are used to is undoubtedly Americanized.

              1. re: HaagenDazs
                t
                tmso RE: HaagenDazs Feb 26, 2009 12:44 PM

                I'm sure it's americanized, but I think you're wrong about what that means. There are some innovations in italoamerican cuisine, but most of its americanità is in a mixing of pan-peninsular influences and its being drawn from a reduced selection of dishes, leaning in the direction of comfort food. There seems to be a meme among a lot of americans who have learned some about mid- and north-peninsular food that Italian-American favorites are their own thing, and aren't representative of dishes from the peninsula. The cuisine as a whole is somewhat deformed ... but certainly recognizable to someone from Campania.

                I'll try to dig up an example of ziti (or similar) al forno in Italian for comparison, and you can draw your own conclusions :-)

          3. sarah galvin RE: yaddayadda Jan 29, 2009 12:33 PM

            There is a Greek dish called pastitsio that is really good. Uses a ziti like pasta and ground lamb with a bechamel sauce. I know, it isn't Italian, but I like it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sarah galvin
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              jaykayen RE: sarah galvin Jan 29, 2009 08:52 PM

              Pasticcio is Italian.

              1. re: jaykayen
                amyzan RE: jaykayen Feb 27, 2009 07:37 AM

                Pastitsio, the Greek dish, takes its name from Italian pasticcio, but they aren't quite the same dish. Pastitsio is generally made with more distinct layers, with the meat sauce (often with eggplant as well) on the bottom and noodles and bechamel relegated to the top. Pasticcio is more like a lasagna al forno, with the meat and other ingredients in varying layers throughout. Pastitsio will look distinctly different when cut in portions. Pasticcio has much more variation in how it's prepared from region to region or even sometimes household to household, from what I understand.

            2. icey RE: yaddayadda Jan 29, 2009 12:40 PM

              As promised yaddayadda, I'll give you my version.

              I start by making a meat sauce: using olive oil, I sweat some onion and garlic, then I add a mixture of ground pork, veal and beef, and brown that. Once it is browned, I add some red wine and reduce, then I add the crushed tomatoes and let simmer for a few hours.

              I like to add bechamel because I feel it adds a nice comforting touch. (Please let me know if you need a recipe for bechamel)

              Then I par cook the pasta...I'll cook Tortiglioni or Rigatoni for about 5 -6 minutes. In the meantime, I mix together the meat sauce and the bechamel, and will toss the drained pasta in it. Pour the mixture into a cassarole dish and top with grated mozzarella and parmigiano. Then I bake until its bubbling and slightly browned.

              Enjoy!!!

              8 Replies
              1. re: icey
                HaagenDazs RE: icey Jan 29, 2009 12:42 PM

                "I'll cook Tortiglioni or Rigatoni"

                Umm... why not ziti? No big deal, I'm teasing here, but it is called baked ziti for a reason.

                1. re: HaagenDazs
                  icey RE: HaagenDazs Jan 30, 2009 05:00 AM

                  haha....actually, HaagenDazs, I thought about that after I posted! I use Barilla, and I don't ever remember seeing Ziti...maybe because I just keep buying my favourites all the time!

                  1. re: icey
                    a
                    Atahualpa RE: icey Feb 26, 2009 06:08 PM

                    Does Penne Lisce = Ziti? Or does ziti not have the angled cut?

                    That might explain why you don't see it where you are. Up here in Canada it is VERY rare that I see any pasta marked as ziti (although I thought I saw some double labeled as both penne and ziti the other day and, hence, my question).

                    1. re: Atahualpa
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                      bob96 RE: Atahualpa Feb 26, 2009 08:29 PM

                      Penne lisce is smooth penne, with the angled cut. Ziti is also called mostaccioli, at least in Chicago, and, in years past, as mezzani or mezza ziti.
                      There's also a long ziti tube, the length of spaghetti, used in Naples and the south, usually broken in half.

                      1. re: bob96
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                        Atahualpa RE: bob96 Feb 26, 2009 09:10 PM

                        "There's also a long ziti tube, the length of spaghetti, used in Naples and the south, usually broken in half."

                        Is that the same as bucatinni? or is the long ziti thicker?

                        1. re: Atahualpa
                          b
                          bob96 RE: Atahualpa Feb 26, 2009 10:25 PM

                          Actually, ziti in Naples and south normally refers to the uncut shape, and much thicker than bucatini-- it's mezza ziti for the cut we see here, usually 2 inches long. Southern cooks will often hand break the long pasta for bean soups and sauces or with broccoli. Mezzani are short and a bit smaller. The Naples-area pasta maker Di Martino has a gallery at pastadimartino.it. Greeks use the long form to lay in the baked pastistio.

                2. re: icey
                  y
                  yaddayadda RE: icey Feb 26, 2009 10:12 AM

                  I'll be trying this, too. Thanks icey. The only thing preventing me thus far is the "simmer for a few hours" part. I haven't had the time... yet.

                  1. re: icey
                    treestonerivershrub RE: icey Dec 26, 2012 02:57 PM

                    Yes--bechamel makes all the difference in baked ziti.
                    Make sure whatever recipe you use includes it.

                  2. Tracenator RE: yaddayadda Jan 29, 2009 03:35 PM

                    Yeah I love the one episode of the Sopranos where AJ, when hearing that Grandma's not coming to a family party says, "what, no f**kin' Ziti now!!?" Here's a a recipe from Cooks Illustrated that was really good.

                    Ingredients
                    1 pound whole milk cottage cheese or 1 percent cottage cheese
                    2 large eggs , lightly beaten
                    3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
                    Table salt
                    1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
                    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
                    5 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
                    1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
                    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
                    1 teaspoon dried oregano
                    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
                    1 teaspoon sugar
                    Ground black pepper
                    3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
                    1 cup heavy cream
                    8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

                    Instructions

                    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander (do not wash Dutch oven).

                    2. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

                    3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl; transfer mixture to now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

                    4. Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

                    5. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Tracenator
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                      Val RE: Tracenator Jan 29, 2009 05:06 PM

                      LOL..."f'ing ziti"....ya gotta love the Sopranos! Every now and then, I do crave pasta...potatoes I crave most often, then pasta, and rarely ever rice...but now I'm really jonesing for pasta!

                      1. re: Val
                        mrpotato RE: Val Jan 29, 2009 05:50 PM

                        hahaha. I, too, started to search for a baked ziti recipe after I started watching the sopranos. I've been making the one on all recipes, but I have not tried the cooks illustrated one yet; will have to soon.

                        http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baked-Zi...

                        One note: was it me or does anyone else feel like the show's ending kind of sucked? Sorry i digress.

                      2. re: Tracenator
                        Boccone Dolce RE: Tracenator Jan 29, 2009 06:33 PM

                        Cottage cheese??!??!?
                        (I'm not as shocked as my punctuation implies, just....... I don't like that junk in my baked zeed.....)
                        Ok, ok- and any meat you may or may not wanna include goes ON THE SIDE. That's all I'm gonna say. Unless you're cooking for a bunch of Gavones, then mix it all in.

                        1. re: Boccone Dolce
                          viperlush RE: Boccone Dolce Jan 29, 2009 08:18 PM

                          I tried the CI recipe last night with the cottage cheese. CI's rational for it is ricotta can be and gritty while the cottage cheese is moister. Also cubes of mozz instead of shredded so you get pockets of cheese.

                          It wasn't bad, but I missed the flavor of the ricotta.

                          1. re: viperlush
                            j
                            jaykayen RE: viperlush Jan 29, 2009 08:53 PM

                            Only inferior ricotta is gritty. Seek out fresh ricotta (you won't find it in supermarkets.) It lasts less than a week.

                            1. re: jaykayen
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                              walker RE: jaykayen Feb 11, 2009 03:27 PM

                              Right ON!! Never buy Trader Joe's ricotta. I only buy it in Italian stores or places like Whole Foods. The other stuff is not worth buying.

                            2. re: viperlush
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                              Fleur RE: viperlush Feb 27, 2009 05:01 PM

                              Cottage Cheese in Baked Ziti? Mama Mia! Quelle horreur!

                              Cottage Cheese is very salty, with a very high sodium content. It is also gritty., and totally un-Italian or Italian American.

                              Ricotta Cheese is smooth and luscious. I use the Polly-O Part Skim. According to Marcella Hazan, my former cooking teacher, that is the closest to the Italian.. When I use it to make Cannoli or Bakes Ziti, I usually push it through a sieve.

                              I make Baked Ziti all the time, in a variety of ways. Whatever is available. Meat Sauce, Sausages, plain Marinara Sauce froma jar (24 oz) I use Fairway or Ceriello brand. I also use Penne Rigate, the kind with the ridges. It seems to hold up better.

                              One box Penne Rigate... I use de Cecco imported... there is a difference.
                              24 oz jar of Sauce, or three cups home made.
                              One cup Ricotta
                              One egg, beaten
                              half cup Mozarella, shredded on coarse grater
                              1/2 cup grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano if you are feeling rich
                              Mix in 1/4 cuo, reserve 1/4 cuo for topping.

                              I mix the Cheese Mixture ( Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Pecorino) into the sauced Pasta.

                              Pour into buttered Baking Dish. Bake at 359 covered fo 30 min. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until brown and bubbly.

                              Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

                              Better the next day!

                            3. re: Boccone Dolce
                              Splendid Wine Snob RE: Boccone Dolce Feb 27, 2009 02:07 PM

                              Ya, cottage cheese??? With all due respect, I friggin hate when people use cottage cheese to replace beloved ricotta.

                              SWS

                            4. re: Tracenator
                              l
                              lawgirl3278 RE: Tracenator Feb 27, 2009 07:09 AM

                              Cottage cheese?! My family would faint!

                              But it's good to see they use eggs in the recipe and at least some sort of creamy cheese. IMO, baked ziti w/o ricotta is dry.

                            5. y
                              yaddayadda RE: yaddayadda Jan 30, 2009 05:13 AM

                              Ho! Good response -- appreciated.
                              'Scuse me -- I'll make like Carmella and hit the kitchen now.

                              1. t
                                tmso RE: yaddayadda Jan 30, 2009 05:36 AM

                                I don't know that it's the same ziti al forno that the people on TV would be eating, but here are the two variations that my pops makes. Note that in all cases the ziti can be replaced by penne, which are nearly the same pasta, pre-cut.

                                Ziti con melanzane

                                Sweat 1/2 a minced onion in oil with 1 clove garlic and a handful of chopped parsley. Add a medium eggplant, cut into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes, salted and drained. Cook over medium heat until the eggplant is cooked and remove from heat. Cook about 7 or 8 oz of ziti for 3/4 of the indicated cooking time. While the ziti are cooking, beat two eggs and stir in 1/4 cup grated parmesan, the same quantity of mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch cubes, and a bunch of torn basil leaves. When the ziti are finished, drain, cut into 2- or 3-inch lengths, toss with oil and mix thoroughly in the bowl with the eggs, adding the cooked eggplant. Season with a bit of salt if you like, and a little coarse ground pepper. Bake uncovered for 20 min in a medium oven.

                                Ziti con patate

                                Cube some potatoes, and cook in a very garlicy tomato sauce. When they're cooked, remove from heat and carefully stir in a lot of parmesan so it melts into the sauce. Other cheeses work here too, including pecorino. Mix with ziti prepared as indicated above, put in a dish, dot the top with cubes of mozzarella, but do not make a thick layer of cheese. Bake for 30 min or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and a little browned.

                                1. y
                                  yaddayadda RE: yaddayadda Feb 11, 2009 12:08 PM

                                  So far:
                                  Tried mark Bittman's minimalist recipe at:

                                  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                                  Easy and hearty. Family liked it, but for me: it wasn't "the one". I wanted something a little more tomato-y. I'll try another one next week and report back. Thanks to all CH submitters thus far.

                                  1. greygarious RE: yaddayadda Feb 11, 2009 03:38 PM

                                    Here in the Boston area, Comella's restaurant is known for something called "The Mess". This varies from day to day, but is always some sort of short pasta mixed with cheeses and tomato sauce. Many add-ins are offerred, with names of family members given to specific combinations. The recipes are secret but judging by the speed with which the orders are completed, I conclude that the various meats and vegetables are kept hot, then stirred into the hot pasta/cheese/sauce and either microwaved or briefly baked in a very hot oven. They do a vigorous business.

                                    www.comellasrestaurant.com

                                    1. y
                                      yaddayadda RE: yaddayadda Feb 26, 2009 10:08 AM

                                      Next outing:
                                      Tried the Cook's Illustrated recipe. See RobinC's post at 10-19-2008 11:24 AM at:

                                      http://community.cookinglight.com/arc...

                                      Man, was this fantastic! Very close to what I was dreaming a baked ziti would or should taste like. Will definitely be "The One" after I've tweaked the recipe a bit. Perhaps will try to add some ground beef or sausage next time. And I also might try adding the pasta after the liquid has come to a full boil (not at the same time, as suggested by the recipe) -- to let the flavour develop a little more.

                                      I will be trying other CHer recipes, too. (See other posts.) Thanks again.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: yaddayadda
                                        m
                                        madeliner RE: yaddayadda Mar 14, 2012 06:33 PM

                                        My family served extra sauce on the side at sunday dinners-yum!

                                        I got some victoria marinara on sale-going to make baked ziti tonight :)

                                        1. re: madeliner
                                          y
                                          yaddayadda RE: madeliner Mar 18, 2012 07:23 AM

                                          I made a batch a couple weeks ago. Used extra cheese all around. Too good to be true.

                                      2. m
                                        madeliner RE: yaddayadda Dec 24, 2012 02:49 PM

                                        Do any of you mix in the sauce with the ricotta and other cheese?

                                        I usually put sauce on bottom then the ziti cheese mixture then more sauce, mozz and grated cheese on top but don't mix sauce in with the ziti-it's good but was wondering if adding sauce to the ziti mix would make it even better.

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