“Why did the Italians lose the war? Because when they were told to buy shells, they bought ziti!” That’s the joke that I was always told by the Italian Americans I knew growing up in Middletown, Connecticut. Regardless of who won the war (or how) I grew to love baked ziti – it is the Italian version of mac-n-cheese – so you know it is full of calories and lots of comfort!
In this version I reversed the proportions that you usually find, using only a little sausage for flavor and tons of garlic (a full head, thank you very much!) Instead of a sauce I had a bunch of cherry tomatoes that needed to be used and combined with a lovely red wine they made a delicious sauce.
This is my entry for Presto Pasta Nights this week, so I’m sending it over to Nic of Lemon and Cheese . Check out the roundup there on Friday for lots of mouth watering pasta!
Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage and Garlic
1/3 lb sweet Italian sausage, without casing
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 15 oz can)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine (malbec, cabernet sauvignon, merlot)
1 onion, diced
1 head garlic (12-15 cloves), minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb ziti pasta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dried oregano
10 oil-cured black olives, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. While waiting for water to boil, make sauce. Crumble sausage into saute pan with olive oil and cook on high heat for 5 minutes until sausage is just browned; add onion and garlic and cook another 5 minutes until they are softened. Turn heat down to medium and add tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes until they begin to release their juices. Add wine and tomato paste and cook 5-8 minutes to create sauce. Turn sauce down to simmer. Cook pasta until almost al dente (drain about 2 minutes before it would be al dente.) Drain and combine in a 9 x 11 baking pan with sauce and cheeses and mix well, making sure cheese is well stirred in and sauce coats pasta. Sprinkle oregano over top, season with salt and pepper and add chopped olives if desired. Bake for 15 minutes until hot and cheese is fully melted.
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