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03.13.2006

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comfort food: 
b
aked ziti 
by Yee-Fan Sun 
| 
1 2

Though it's March, and spring's still not here in the UK, and I've been griping an awful lot about this fact of late, I have to admit: there's one plus side to the continued lousy weather. With the wet and chill keeping me cooped up indoors, it's the perfect opportunity to cook up some comfort food. Big, hearty meals served up in big, hearty portions -- stews and noodle soups, pot pie and cottage pie and pretty much anything else baked in a casserole dish, foods that invite you to dig in with relish, dishes that warm you up from the inside out.

One of my favorite comfort foods is the humble baked ziti (or rigatoni, or penne, or whatever chunky tubular pasta I can manage to scrounge up in my cupboard). No fancy takes on this Italian-American classic for me: I like my baked ziti plain and simple, just pasta and tomato sauce and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. It's the sort of food that offers absolutely zero in the way of challenging the palate; this, of course, is what makes it so comforting. Offering the ideal balance of crunchy topping to chewy pasta to gooey cheesy tomato sauce, baked ziti always feels good to eat.

baked ziti
Glutton for punishment that I am, I like to make this whole dish from scratch. You can substantially cut down on the work by using pre-made sauce (preferably frozen or leftover homemade sauce, but obviously a good-quality jarred version would work too) and store-bought seasoned breadcrumbs.

tomato sauce
2 14-oz. cans of peeled plum tomatoes
1 onion
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 carrot
either a handful of fresh basil leaves, or 1/4 tsp. each of dried oregano and dried basil
tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil

breadcrumb topping
1 half-inch-thick slice of white bread from a round loaf (stale is good), or enough to yield cup of breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
tsp. of salt
sprinkle of fresh ground pepper

1 lb. ziti or other similar pasta (rigatoni, penne, etc.)
cup fresh ricotta
1 cup grated mozzarella

time 50-60 minutes to prep, plus 30 minutes for baking
serves 4-6 as a main dish

sidle along this way for directions and a printer-friendly recipe!

 

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