In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room. I wondered, what in the world is ziti. I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One. At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape. As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.
EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!). I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.
It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes. For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time. Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.
Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week. This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.
Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Set large pot of water on high heat.
- Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
- Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
- Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
- Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
- When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested. It will complete cooking in the oven.
- Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
- Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
- Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan. Add the remaining pasta and top with the rest of the cheeses.
- Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.