Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Over Think the Comfort.

You want something to eat that gives you a warm, comforting feeling, but should the recipe be complicated or simple?  Depends on what you believe is a comfort food; while someone believes it's mashed potatoes with butter, someone else is looking for baby new potatoes topped with creme fraiche and caviar.  The one thing you need to remember is that you should be just as comfortable making the dish as you are eating it.

Italian food wraps itself around you like a blanket; while the pasta is your pillow, the sauce massages the aches and pains from the body.  Sounds nice?  Funny though how many folks I have met who are scared to death to make Italian recipes.  "It's too complicated or difficult.", "I'll never find all the ingredients I'll need", "How do I know I'm doing it right if I've never tasted it before?"   Answer to all three questions: "You're over thinking it!"  You can't make comfort food if you're putting such stress upon

Making homemade pasta sauce is relatively easy nowadays, especially since almost everyone and their mother owns a crock pot (slow cooker). Now lets make an Italian casserole that is so easy, you'll kick yourself for having self doubts on your ability to make it. Hints: if you cannot find ziti in the pasta aisle, use penne. If you want meat in your dish, grill up some Italian sausage or make meatballs. Please, please don't buy frozen meatballs, they are so full of fillers, that's why they can bounce. Remember, with my sauce and meatball recipes, you can half them, or make the full recipes and they can be frozen for up to six months. Oh, when cooking your pasta up, use a little olive oil in the boiling water instead of salt; still keeps the pasta from sticking together, but adds more flavor.

Baked Ziti


1(16 oz)box ziti pasta
6 cups homemade pasta sauce plus 2 extra cups
1(16 oz)bag shredded mozzarella plus 1(8 oz)bag shredded Italian cheese mix


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 3 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Prepare ziti according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the cooked ziti, 6 cups of sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Spread out mixture into baking dish and top evenly with the shredded Italian cheese mix. Bake for 30-40 minutes; until cheese on top is melted and just starting to brown at the edges.  

Serve with the extra two cups of sauce for anyone wanting more sauce with their pasta, or to dip bread (preferably toasted garlic bread) into.
Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

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