A few Sundays ago, Kiddo and I prepared several dishes to be cooked and served at Dad’s farm for a family Sunday Supper. I selected several yummy dishes that were easy to assemble at home, transport to the farm and finish in Dad’s oven. I wanted to cook dinner for Dad and his wife, Sue, without making a huge mess of their kitchen. I wanted to make something that traveled easily and would make our evening as stress-free as possible What could be easier? Dad preheated the oven, when we arrived I popped the dishes into the warm oven, we had a nice visit while everything cooked. Perfect. What I chose to make were two of my favorite “Italian” themed dishes – Genoa Style Stuffed Pork Loin Roast and Tuscan Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Parmesan.
We had such a lovely evening, that we’ve decided to make it a regular “thing” – a monthly gathering. And to expand the attendee to include other family members. My sister and I would do the “cooking” (doing most of the prep work at our homes), while Dad and Sue would do the “hosting” – supplying the place and the plates.
While we haven’t set a date yet for our next Sunday Family Supper, I’ve already begun searching for recipes that can be assembled at one place, then cooked at another. This task is easier said then done. Never mind the assemble, travel, cook criteria – that’s the easy part. The hard part is to find food that everyone will like. My sister has small children – with delicate pallets – nothing too fancy or spicy. Sue won’t eat chicken or rice. Dad won’t eat fish unless it’s shell-fish. Limitation. No worries. I can work around limitations and still serve up something yummy the entire family will enjoy.
Enter the Classic Ziti Bake with Mild Italian Sausage. Easy to assemble at home. Easy to transport. Easy to pop in the oven at the farm, giving us plenty of time to visit while the Ziti bakes. Not too spicy – or “strange” for the little ones. No chicken, rice or fish – I think this will be the perfect casserole-style dish.
Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage
1 lb Ziti, cooked according to package
1 lb Italian Sausage, casings removed (or bulk sausage)
½ Cup Chopped Yellow or White Onion
½ Cup Chopped Red Onion
4-6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with liquid
2 15-oz Containers Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Tablespoon Oregano
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley for garnish
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a full boil.
Cook pasta al dente, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and keep warm.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees
Chop onions, set aside. Peel garlic, set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onions. Press garlic directly into pan.
Cook until sausage is browned, breaking into small pieces. Remove from heat; drain if necessary and stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes; set aside.
Combine ricotta cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning and black pepper; mix well.
Place cooked Ziti in a rectangular casserole dish. Add 4 cups of the sauce to mixture, mix well. Spoon ricotta mixture evenly over Ziti; spread evenly. Top with remaining sauce.
Place Ziti in oven and bake 45 minutes.
Remove Ziti from oven, top with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheeses are melted.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Just as a footnote: While the Ziti bakes, we’ll be feeding the new baby goats . . . what fun!