Baked Ziti

I don’t know if you can really call this Italian food. I think it is definitely American. But nonetheless it’s fantastic. This recipe has really surprised me, it just keeps getting better and better. And it makes the best leftovers! You can prepare this in a 13×9 inch pan or you can make it in in two 8 inch square pans. I really like to freeze one of the pans. I just line line the pan with two layers of foil, dump the ziti in, freeze for a couple of hours. I then take it out of the pan and wrap it generously with foil and place in a large gallon ziplock freezer bag. Then when you are ready to bake, just unwrap and put it back in a square baking pan. This is a technique I use for all kinds of recipes: Cheesy Chicken and Rice, Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas, Lasagna, Everything Breakfast Quiche. It is pretty rare that someone peeks into my freezer and doesn’t find one of these casserole-esque recipes frozen and ready to bake.

If you haven’t noticed a theme on the blog… I am kind of obsessed with Italian Sausage. It has become the easy star of so many recipes. It is just so easy to keep on hand, it freezes so well! And I’m not just talking about the pork version… I am in love with any chicken or turkey Italian sausage. Sprouts has a fabulous option that really cuts calories out of any of these recipes… Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup, Farro and Sausage Parmigiano, Lasagna. This recipe is not what I would consider “healthy” but for a pasta dish you can make some substitutions to cut down on calories. Its probably about 600 calories per serving as made below, so it’s not the worst as far as pasta goes.



If you make all of this ziti at once, it will serve quite a large crowd. You should definitely serve it with a salad and some crusty bread. I would do a simple salad with spring mix, balsamic vinaigrette, capers, mozzarella. If you bake half and freeze half, you will still have a fair amount of leftovers for lunch the next day. As far as wine goes I think that pinot noir and merlot are excellent choices for this baked ziti. If you’re looking for a bargain wine, step 1 go to Costco… and then give A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir a try. It is a great value at around $15. It will give you all the great qualities of Oregon Pinot at a fraction of the price. These Oregon Pinots are not the jammy, mouth puckering wines like you might find in Napa. They are more rich and have a woody characteristic. A to Z makes a pinot that is fabulous with this ziti but is also easy to drink on its own. A bottle of this will disappear in minutes when drinking with friends on the porch on a cool spring evening.

Baked Ziti

1 lb 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
3 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Kosher salt
1 lb ziti (or other large hollow shaped pasta)
1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
20 oz Italian sausage
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
28 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the cottage cheese, eggs, 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese in a medium bowl. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta until it softens but is not fully cooked. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft for about 7 minutes. Add in the turkey sausage, breaking it up. Cook until nearly all browned. Add in the garlic and oregano and cook for two minutes more. Pour in the tomato sauce and sugar and stir until combined. Simmer over medium low until thickened, about 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix together the cornstarch and heavy cream in a small bowl. Pour this into the stockpot you cooked your pasta in. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until thickened, 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the cottage cheese mixture, tomato sauce, and about 2/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Mix well until combined. Add the pasta and toss to coat.

Transfer this to a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. (This would be the last step before freezing.) Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook until bubbling, about 20 minutes longer. Allow the pasta to cool for 10 minutes prior to serving.

Orecchiette with Sausage

For some reason this cute little orecchiette pasta shape was just calling my name. I had a surplus of turkey sausage from an overzealous grocery trip, and voilà this recipe was born. This dish is simple and comforting. It comes together very quickly and is ideal for an easy weeknight dinner. And although I sort of made up this recipe, it feels very authentic. Orecchiette is a kind of rustic pasta, from the Apulia region in Italy (in the boot of the country). This area is well known for making homemade pasta but it is very different from the pasta you are most likely accustomed to that is made in Emilia-Romagna. It is a firmer pasta and it is actually very simple to make. I recommend Marcella Hazan’s book if you’re interested in making your own pasta.

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I like to use Fresh Market white wine and garlic turkey sausage in this recipe, it has excellent flavor and is a bit healthier than traditional pork sausage. If you make the recipe as directed below, you will get about 4 servings of 520 calories each. This is pretty good, I think, for a pasta dish with sausage. You could actually substitute the lima beans for other greens that you may have in the fridge. I have used kale and spinach in this recipe. You should cook the kale and spinach down with the onions and garlic though. It will only take a few minutes.

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Serve this with white wine, a steel chardonnay or pinot grigio. One of my new favorite everyday chards right now is Bouchaine. They have a lovely wine made in Carneros that is sold at Costco for the extremely reasonable price of $16. It is actually the oldest operating winery in Carneros. It has changed hands a few times over the years and now produces fabulous chardonnay and pinot noir with sustainable farming practices. You will definitely appreciate the Burgundian style but the California notes and Carneros terroir are recognizable in this wine.

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Orecchiette with Sausage

8 oz orecchiette (or other small pasta shape)
1 lb chicken or turkey sausage such as white wine and garlic or spicy italian, casings removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus a little more for serving)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can lima beans

Cook orecchiette as directed on the package in a large pot of boiling water until it is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the sausage, breaking it up with a firm spatula until only small clumps remain. Remove the cooked sausage to a plate.

Add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to the skillet. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from heat, return the sausage to the pan. Add in the lima beans.

Toss the cooked orecchiette with the sausage and onion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings. Mix in the grated parmesan cheese.

Serve with grated parmesan on top.

This is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.

Cajun Pasta

I am so excited about this pasta. It is a dish that will impress your friends but it also comes together quickly for a weeknight meal. I debuted this recipe at a Bachelor watch party and it was a huge success. There, the secret is out. The Bachelor is an amazing show.  It is almost as amazing as this Cajun Pasta. This dinner is easy, it’s exploding with flavor, it’s spicy, and it’s comforting. It will help you get through the rollercoaster of emotions that is The Bachelor. If you do not have a Bachelor bracket competition going with your friends, I really don’t understand what gets you out of bed on Monday mornings. It’s getting a little late in the season to start brackets, but it’s never to late for Bachelor bingo. I have created for you… a very special bingo game. So print off these bingo cards, invite your friends over, pour yourself a glass of wine, make some Cajun Pasta, and Monday night will soon be your favorite night of the week.

 

 

You can use any of the produce in your fridge for this recipe. If you have Italian sausage, use it, if you have andouille, use it. If you have chicken or shrimp, use it. If your shrimp is already cooked, easy, throw it in the sauce at the end of cooking. If you want to add some kale or spinach, cook it down with the onions and red pepper before you add the tomatoes. If you don’t have a can of San Marzano tomatoes, use a jar of marinara. Seriously. This is a very forgiving recipe. I like to use Johnsonville andouille chicken sausage in this recipe to save on calories. It has wonderful flavor, it’s spicy, and it’s half the calories compared to pork. But again you can definitely use pork or turkey sausage, whatever you can find in the store. This meal is about 450 calories for each of 8 servings. Which is truly phenomenal considering how delicious and comforting it is.

 

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I do have to admit that I use a secret ingredient in this. I include a spice blend called Cape Hatteras Smoked Seafood Seasoning. It is from a store in Brookside, Savory Spice Shop. I have been using their spices for awhile now, and I have not been disappointed. You can visit the shop or you can order online. My other favorite spice from their store is the black lava salt. It is a black smoky sea salt that will elevate any dish, dessert, or cookie. In place of the Cape Hatteras blend, you can use any cajun seasoning that you prefer.

 

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This pasta is a bit spicy which may lead you down the white wine road. But I think you should serve this dish with Nebbiolo. This grape comes from the Piedmont region in Italy and is mostly used in Barolo and Barbaresco. I am so glad that Nebbiolo is gaining in popularity. It is a lighter bodied wine but has complex tannins that will surprise you, for sure. This grape only composes about 3% of the Piedmont region’s production. It is gaining in popularity but it is not super prevalent in US retailers. You may have to search for this wine. If you have access to Costco, they have two excellent Nebbiolos right now. It is a perfect red wine to serve with tomato based sauces and spicy foods.

 

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Cajun Pasta

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb penne pasta (or other similar pasta shape)
12 oz chicken or turkey andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lb chicken breast tenders, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning (or more based on your preference)
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
28 oz can san marzano tomatoes, crushed (or a jar of marinara)
1/4 cup cream
1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled and tails removed
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated for serving

Cook the pasta as directed on the package in a large pot of boiling water.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chopped chicken with cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook the sausage and chicken breast tenders in the olive oil for 7 minutes. The chicken should be just cooked on all sides.

Mix in the onions and bell pepper. Sauté the vegetables and meat over medium heat until the onions are translucent and the pepper softens. Add in the garlic, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper. Cook for 2 minutes more until the spices and garlic are fragrant.

Deglaze the skillet with white wine. Cook until most of the wine evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add in the crushed san marzano tomatoes with their juices. Stir to combine well. Simmer the sauce, partially covered, over medium low heat, for 10 minutes. Mix in the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes more, until the shrimp is just pink.

Taste the sauce, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.