Long Ziti Pasta Bake

 Hey everyone!  This post is a long time coming, and I’m excited to share a great recipe with you guys.

Last week was pretty rainy for a few days, which I love because it gives me the chance to cook hearty yummy carb-y meals.  Not that I don’t love summer food, and I did rediscover the hot dog last week, but I love cooking big pasta dinners.

Sunday night I made meatballs and long ziti, and Monday I needed a way to make the leftovers yummy.  This recipe was extra fun to make because my mom and I got to plan for creative leftovers and shop together.

I’d never made long ziti before, and it’s just like the name implies – ziti noodles that they haven’t cut down to regulation size.  I didn’t love it because it was too thick to slurp up like spaghetti and too long not to end up cutting, but it was a crowd favorite in my house, so it’s worth giving a try.

What I ended up making with the long ziti was kind of lasagna-y, kind of eggplant parm-y, but definitely carb-y and good!  It’s super versatile because you can mix up the ingredients and use whatever pasta and meat you like, or even make it vegetarian.  Instead of eggplant you could try zucchini… the possibilities are almost endless!

I haven’t posted my go-to meatball recipe yet, but if you need help with the meatball step, here is a link to the chicken meatballs I made a while back.  The process is the same for meatballs with beef.  If you have leftover meatballs and pasta, this is a great recipe, but it’s just as easy to make from scratch.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta – long ziti or otherwise
  • 1.5 pounds meat – I like 93% lean ground beef
  • Milk – enough for the meatballs
  • Eggs – 1 per pound of meat
  • Breadcrumbs for the meatballs
  • 1 large eggplant
  • Cheese – Parmesan or otherwise
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoning to taste – I used a scant amount of fennel to make the meat taste more sausage-y.
  • Diced onion and garlic.

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Slice the eggplant into quarter to half-inch thick slices.  Brush with olive oil and grill over medium heat.  If you don’t have a grill, you could fry them in a saute pan.
  • Place oiled-side down on the grill and lightly salt the opposite side.
  • While the eggplant is cooking prepare the meat mixture.  Use a large wooden spoon or your hands to mix meat, one egg, and enough bread crumbs and milk to make the mixture thoroughly moist.  Try not to over-mix.
  • Add about a half-teaspoon of fennel.
  • Instead of forming it into balls, rip into quarter-sized crumbles.
  • Heat olive oil a large saute pan over medium heat and brown onion and garlic, stirring to be careful that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • Heat water for the ziti.
  • Evenly distribute crumbles and allow to brown. 
  • When all the meat has been browned, add the tomatoes and the sauce to the pan.  Add some cheese as well.
  • Cook the pasta for less time than as directed on the package because it will continue cooking in the oven, and drain. {I cooked my ziti for only 4 minutes and the package said to cook it for 6}
  • Spoon some sauce from the saute pan into a lasagna-casserole to keep the noodles from sticking to the bottom.
  • Layer noodles first (mine look so squidgy in the picture because they’re leftovers, but freshly cooked noodles will look so much nicer).
  • Follow with eggplant, and then meat crumbles and more pasta.
  • Add a layer of sauce, then a layer of pasta, and top with meat and sauce.
  • Sprinkle cheese over the top.
  • Bake until cheese is melted.
  • Scoop out a portion and enjoy 🙂

And that’s it.  Let me know what you think about the long ziti if you try it!!
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2 thoughts on “Long Ziti Pasta Bake

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