Monday, June 4, 2012

better than average baked ziti

Justin was out of town last week and Thursday and Friday I spent cooking and preparing for the party without Eneye's help watching Ashlynn (she was home with her ill daughter).  It was busy and I knew I had to use all my time efficiently to get my too-long-list done before the party on Saturday (which was a hit by the way).  I enlisted Addie to watch Ashlynn in the living room while I worked in the kitchen and ran around like a mad woman during Ashlynn's naps trying to accomplish tons while I had both hands free.  Once I had the girls all asleep for the night I completed my baking and cleaning and decorating. Phew!  I was so happy to see Justin when he returned late on Friday night.

Friday afternoon it seemed the girls started to get cranky earlier than normal.  I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that it was already 4PM. I had completely forgotten to plan something out for dinner with all the hustle of trying to get the cooking for the party done.  Last minute I threw a pan of baked rigatoni (essentially baked ziti) together and surprisingly, it was a huge hit.

Here's my deal with baked ziti.  I've never made it before because it's never been my favorite pasta dish.  I think of it mostly as a kid friendly dish people bring to parties or work potlucks usually over-baked bland and dry.  When Ashlynn was born our sweet neighbors and friends from Addie's preschool in the U.S. brought over casseroles and 3 out of 4 were baked ziti with varying degrees of dryness and grossness. We were so thankful to have food pre prepared that we initially didn't care what it was, but after a few weeks we were so sick of baked ziti I vowed to never eat it again.  That is until this last Friday night.

Here it what I frantically threw together that evening while my kids melted down around me.

I boiled a bag of rigatoni (since we didn't have ziti and it's basically the same thing) and threw it in a 9x11 pan.  I sauteed chicken sausage and sliced it in rounds.  In a bowl I combined a cup of ricotta cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  In a larger bowl I combined spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, oregano and garlic powder (if I had more time I would have minced fresh).  Then I combined the pasta, sausage and sauce in the pan.  Fold in crumbled ricotta and lastly top with ricotta and Parmesan cheese.  I baked this covered at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.  It was delicious and moist and the ricotta added a rich creamy texture.  I would say it was better than the average baked ziti I've tasted and a huge bonus was the girls devoured it.  But, typically they will devour anything when they are super starving.

I was also really happy to have leftover baked ziti for Saturday evening dinner after the party.  There was no way I was cooking dinner after everyone left and the house was cleaned up.  Reheated with a bit of water in the bowl and a moist paper towel on top kept the ziti nice and moist.  Yum!  And double yum after how easy and quick this meal was to prepare.

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