Have you noticed how many recipes abound that call for this type of sausage or that, casings removed? Maybe it’s me – maybe it’s the whole way American meat cases are stocked; but you can usually find the same type of sausage packaged two ways – bulk and in casings. Whenever I’m cooking something that requires the sausage to be coin-cut or grilled, naturally I go for the variety sold in casings. When the first step in the instructions calls for the casing to be removed and the sausage inside to be fried, like you would any ground meat, why not buy in bulk form? If I can skip a step and have the end results the same, you can bet your bottom dollar; I’ll skip a step.
I ask you, do you see a difference in the meat? Why buy something that requires a little more effort for the same result? It’s just packaging – the flavor, the spices, the quality are identical.
Ziti is a short shaped pasta popular at Sicilian Weddings. The definition of the word Ziti is controversial. Some say it means “bridegrooms”, others claim the word means “spinsters or bachelors”. The Barilla Pasta company say: Ziti gets its name from the word Zita which means a young woman who is about to become a bride, or “little girl.” Still, an online search and you will find various spins such as young boys, girls, bachelors, brides-grooms, spinsters all coming together in one place. Put it all together and you have the makings for one big Italian Wedding. Or in this case, one delicious pasta dish fitting any occasion.
On a side note; years ago we had some friends that were New York-Italian transplants. When you had dinner at their house, it did not matter what type of pasta they were serving – be in a big bowl of Spaghetti or a platter of Ravioli, the question was always the same. “Did you get enough macaroni? Here, have some more macaroni.” It certainly simplified things.
One-Skillet Baked Ziti
1 lb hot or Mild Italian sausage, in bulk
1 (14.5-oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
½ (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb Ziti Pasta (Penne can also be used)
3 cups water
1 (8-oz) package shredded Italian cheese blend
Fresh Basil, for garnish
In a large (12-inch) skillet over high heat, brown sausage, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, sauce, paste, Italian seasoning, dried pasta, and water. Stir to combine, cover and bring to a boil. Boil until pasta is al dente (has a little bite to it).
Meanwhile; combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until well incorporated.
Stir ricotta mixture into pasta. Preheat oven to broil. Top skillet with shredded cheese and place in oven. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Keep a close eye on it or you will have crispy cheese pretty quick.
Garnish with basil. Serve and enjoy!