Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baked Sausage Ziti

Happy Holidays!

It has been awhile since I blogged, but just due to some crazy and hectic schedules, I haven't had any time to post recipes and pictures. Hopefully I will have some time to catch up on blogging!

Having the first true snowfall hit this past weekend, I wanted to make some warm comfort food- and my favorite I look to? Pasta. It's my tried and true comfort food I reach for time and time again. I got this recipe from Cook's Illustrated*, and I adapted it to add some protein for a fully balanced meal. I also made a side of Roasted Garlic Bread, which was to die for. My DB, who wasn't that hungry, had 2 platefuls of both and quoted "this is the best pasta dish you've made", and consistently told me it had great flavor. I couldn't agree more. This dish makes a lot, so it would be perfect to feed a crowd, bring to a potluck, or have enough to pack for lunches and subsequent dinners. Delicioso. (Edited to add: This makes a LARGE portion. I used my large 3-qt Pyrex baking dish and filled it completely up. If you plan to divy up into smaller pans, then I'd suggest doubling the amount of mozzarella cheese.)

* Cook's Illustrated had some helpful tips about using the specified ingredients within this recipe:
1. Mozzarella cheese "block" (not pre-shredded)- Pre-shredded cheese melts into an unappetizing rubbery crust
2. Dry, grainy sauce- Ziti absorbs liquid as it cooks, leaving the sauce dry and the ricotta grainy and broken. Therefore, ensure you only cook your pasta halfway.
3. Not ricotta- Our recipe swaps ricotta for cottage cheese, which maintains its creamy texture even when hot.
4. 2 sauces- This recipe combines the traditional tomato sauce with non-traditional alfredo sauce to achieve the perfect balance of brightness and richness.
5. Diced mozzarella- Diced mozzarella, stirred into the sauce and sprinkled on top of the dish, leads to melted cheese in every bite.

1 pound (16-oz) whole milk cottage cheese or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1-1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta (We used penne)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-lb spicy sausage roll
1 medium onion, finely diced
5 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
28-oz can tomato sauce
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tsp sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (see note)
16-oz low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 Tbsp salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 minutes. (Halve the cooking time recommended according to package.) Using a colander, drain the pasta and leave the pasta in the colander (do not wash Dutch oven).
4. Meanwhile, heat oil, sausage, onion, and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until sausage is cooked and onions are soft and translucent.
5. Add and stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
6. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper. (I normally don't season with salt, as the sausage has enough salt.)
7. In a measuring cup, measure the heavy cream, and then stir in the cornstarch; transfer mixture to now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. (This took me 4-6 minutes.) Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. (Mozzarella cubes won't be melted.)
8. Add in the cooled pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
9. Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta.
10. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cubes and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top.
11. Cover baking dish tightly with foil (spray foil with cooking spray to prevent cheese from sticking) and bake for 30 minutes.
12. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.
13. Cool for 20 minutes.
14. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp basil and serve.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


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