I am LOVING the weird mixture of autumn and winter that Philly is getting lately. For whatever odd reason, autumn kind of completely skipped Philly this year and instead decided to give us a hybrid of autumn/winter --- something I like to refer to as Auter or Wintumn.
Auter.... or Wintumn has thus far consisted of overcast skies without the rain (my favorite kind of skies), dry, cold air that energizes my whole system, and weather perfect for layering all of my favorite clothes. I also got to break out the fingerless gloves (my favorite kind of gloves) and my fancy hat!
This weather also motivates me to cook like a madwoman and feed the people that I love. Yesterday, I decided to dig for a baked ziti recipe online, as I lost the one I used to have. I found one on www.allrecipes.com, but after reading through it I decided that it needed some Ellen-ifying --- some tweeking, if you will.
The Ellen-ified recipe came out to be the best baked ziti I have ever made. I was able to feed myself, Jim, my sister, and her boyfriend and each person received massive, comfort food portions. I decided to post my recipe below. ENJOY!
Baked Ziti Ellen-Style:
1 16oz. box of ziti pasta
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese (I tweeked this and used an Italian three-cheese blend instead. It had much more flavor.)
1 egg, beaten
5 cloves of garlic, minced (I like garlic. You can use less if you want.)
1 1/2 jars spaghetti sauce (I used tomato, onion, and garlic sauce. You can use less sauce or more sauce depending on what you like.)
1 small chopped red onion, sauteed in olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
As much of the following as your little heart desires ---
Freshly crushed black pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cook your ziti noodles in a pot of salted, boiling water for about 8 minutes or until they're al dente. In a large bowl, mix your ziti, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, onions, garlic, egg, and about 3/4 of one of the jars of spaghetti sauce. Also add your spices. Stir everything together very well.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and scoop your mixture from the bowl into the pan. Press it down lightly so that you have a nice, even layer on top to pour more sauce over. Top with the remaining spaghetti sauce. In a small bowl, mix together breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle this mixture over the top layer of sauce.
Bake for 30 minutes in your 375 degree oven. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
I made a simple side salad with cucumbers, tomatos, carrots, and iceberg lettuce for the side. For the dressing, I mixed some olive oil with some balsamic vinegar and added about 1/4 tsp. of sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/2 tsp of grated parm cheese to it and stirred it very well. This is actually my favorite dressing (courtesy of Emily.)