our regularly scheduled programming. i know, i know, there's so much coffee news, with all the recommendations in this month's gourmet for cute little coffee places in rome. . .
but i've come to understand that the huge news of the moment is the fate of the hbo series, the sopranos. it seems contract disputes with star have temporarily put production of the show on hold, and millions of loyal fans appear to be suffering at the prospect of sitting through more of the same old re-runs.
what can i do in this crisis? only 1 thing: present you with my own personal recipe for that soprano staple, the baked ziti. eat it on sunday nights and weep in lieu of watching the show.
some ziti recipes have meat, bechamel cream sauce. . .all kinds of weighty stuff. not this one. it's simple, has few ingredients. . .the way it should be. this means you have to buy the best pasta, the best cheese, the best tomatoes, fresh herbs, and take care making the stuff, ok?
i have a 2 sauce option -- less for those who like a more cohesive, almost fluffy dish, as it all bakes together light and crisp. but some prefer a moister ziti with more sauce. as you like it. just take care not to make a greasy, heavy tummy bomb:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 medium onion, chopped fine
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed in a press or minced
28 oz. crushed organic san marzano tomatoes or extra sauce option: same 28 oz. can, plus 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons wine (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons crushed italian hot pepper (optional)
big pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper to taste
in a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. add tomatoes, bring to slow boil. add wine, if using. cook for 5 minutes. add herbs, salt and peppers. cook for 5 more minutes. and it's done! pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. grease a large baking dish, oh, 13 x 9-ish. i use a huge white corning wear monster that's about 4 inches deep.
1 lb. de cecco (flash) or trendy latini ziti
1 lb. absolutely fresh and lovely mozzarella cut in 2: 1/2 cubed, 1/2 sliced
1/2 cup absolutely top-quality freshly grated parmesan, divided in half
1/4 cup absolutely top-quality freshly grated romano
cook ziti 1 minute less than package suggests, which usually means about 7 minutes. drain. place in large baking dish. mix in sauce, 1/4 cup parmesan, all the romano, and the cubed mozzarella. toss so it's all distributed evenly.
smooth the surface nicely and use the sliced mozzarella to cover the top. sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned. let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. serves 8, if you make a side salad of arugula or curly endive.
this recipe is dead simple and you can easily put the whole thing together in 40 minutes, counting the cooking time for the sauce. so the whole thing can easily be done in about an hour and a half.