Saturday, February 19, 2011

Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs

Happy Meatball Month!! As you may know, I have declared February "Meatball Month" in lieu of the recent "Mamma Meets The Cucina" Meatball Battle. Last week, I gave you recipes for Meatball Stew and Italian Herb Beer Bread. This week I've got another dish that is so classic, but often forgotten - Baked Ziti.

Typically, this dish involves ziti cut pasta tossed in a bolognese sauce, mixed with cheeses, and baked. Since I often roll mini meatballs (my kids love em), I decided to use those in place of the bolognese. Mini meatballs work especially well as snacks or appetizers - or in dishes like my Meatball Ring, because they cook more quickly, and therefore do not need to simmer in gravy to be enjoyed! When I make a big batch and have leftovers, I always throw together a ziti. It's a lot like lasagne but at least fifty steps simpler...

MEATBALL RECIPE #2: Baked Ziti with Polpetini (mini meatballs)

penne or ziti cut pasta
ricotta cheese
fresh mozzarella
shredded mozzarella
grated cheese

(Now, regarding quantities: I usually use an entire carton of ricotta because I'm cooking for 6 people and make a big casserole dish! You decide waht fits your family, beased on size and love of cheese! I also like to combine fresh and shredded mozzarella on top because I like the way it melts. But NOTHING tops the cubed fresh mozzarella for tossing in with the pasta. Che Bella!)

Boil 1-2 lbs (depending on your family size!) of penne or ziti pasta. BUT: Only boil them halfway. Take them out before they're even al dente - they will finish cooking in the oven and you DON'T want soggy noodles :(

Toss it in your favorite gravy or sauce and the cooked mini meatballs and fill a casserole dish. Gently fold in spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and cubed fresh mozzarella. Top with remaining mozzarella and grated cheese. I also love a few dollops of ricotta on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20- 30 minutes. MANGIA!

As you can see here, I served mine with a side of my homemade Sausage Bread - VERY similar to a stromboli like Dom Condo made for our meatball challenge! You might want to give that a try too!

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