Baked Ziti

The last time I made lasagna, I actually read the box of oven ready lasagna noodles….novel concept since I’ve been cooking for more years than I’m comfortable saying and have never done so before. On the box it said to add 1 cup of water for every 4 cups of sauce (to give the noodles enough liquid to cook & absorb), so the other night, while making ziti, I dithered about doing this with the ziti noodles, instead of pre-cooking them as I normally do.

Literally dithered at the stove, trying to decide whether to pre-cook or just bake. The cogs in my brain were just whirring away, but eventually, I decided to go for it….and it worked!

What I did, though, was to measure the noodles into the baking dish and put in an amount of water less what I figured was in the sauce….trust me, the math worked out.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb mushrooms, quartered or sliced or whole
  • 1 onion, sliced or chopped
  • 1 TB chopped garlic
  • 1 28oz can of chopped tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1 14oz jar of pasta sauce, whichever kind you like, mine was basil
  • 2 cups of carrots, chopped or grated – completely optional. I had some canned, they add a little sweetness and cut the acid of the tomatoes….also, I dislike canned carrots (long story), so this is a great way to use them and add some extra vegetables

Cook the ground beef and when almost done, add the onions and let them cook until a little softened. Add everything else, mix well, pop a lid on the top and let it simmer gently for a while.

This makes quite a bit of sauce…I used half & froze the other half for another night.

Ingredients for the ziti:

  • 4-5 cups of the meat sauce, make sure to get some liquid (you can use your favourite sauce recipe instead)
  • 3 cups of dry pasta, ziti is what I used but any other pasta will work, you will just have to adjust your baking time
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of cheese, I used cheddar because I thought I had parmesan and was disappointed. Mozzarella would be good & gooey on this.

Once you’ve simmered the sauce long enough, or when your belly starts to sing the hungry song, grab a baking pan…I used a ceramic dish about 8×12….and grease up the sides a little (not a deal breaker but makes it easier to clean).

I added the pasta & water then the meat sauce because I was gauging/guessing at how much liquid to add. Mix it all together, but try to make sure the noodles are all submerged.

Bake at 375 F for half an hour. Check on your noodles….mine went in for another 20 minutes. When your noodles are pretty much done, sprinkle the cheese on the top (if you are using it, you don’t have to) and bake a little longer until the cheese is melty.

Let cool for 10 minutes or so, until it’s not quite lava, and serve.

We got Loki a friend….meet Tali. She is much less yelly than he is. She was presented to us by the rescue as a shy girl – they were incorrect – there is nothing shy about her and her purr is massive! She’s five pounds of catitude!

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