December 18, 2009

Baked Ziti - Take It Easy, Make It Easy

We're down to the wire with holiday preparations around here. Everything is in the works, but nothing is completely done.  Not to worry though!

I used to panic about this time every year. Now I'm much more likely to pick up a book, watch a Christmas movie, go to lunch with a friend or bake something. It took me way too long to learn to enjoy the Christmas season, so I guess I learned to make up for lost time.

Christmas Day always arrived, whether I was "ready" or not. Creating Christmas perfection left little time to enjoy the month of preparation, and by Christmas Day I was in no mood to be merry and bright. Then I decided to simplify -- do less and enjoy more.

Now when life gets busy during the holiday season, I know something has got to give. Dinner gets easier. We want something fast, comforting and delicious.

Baked Ziti is perfect for just such days.

I used to make this dish with browned ground beef, or sometimes without any meat at all. Now I prefer the richer, spicy flavor from browned bulk Italian sausage in the mix, especially when added to a jar of Newman's Own Sockarooni sauce, with it's nice bits of green pepper and onion. 

Of course, if I have homemade sauce in the freezer, that's perfect. But it's difficult to beat the total ease of these five simple ingredients when I have shopping . . . wrapping . . . mailing . . . decorating . . . Christmas cards . . . 

And if the stars align and everything comes together perfectly, I just might make two batches at once and put the second casserole in the freezer for later. Now that takes fast and easy to a whole new level.

Rolling into the new year with a dinner already made in the freezer! Things are looking good for January!

But for now, let's just take it one day at a time. And take it easy. And make your life merry and bright for all the days leading up to Christmas. 

BAKED ZITI

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 jar pasta sauce ( I like Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce)
1 16 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 13.25 oz. box penne pasta ( I like Dreamfield's)
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 slices provolone

Crumble and brown Italian sausage; drain grease or rinse sausage under running water. In a bowl, mix cooked sausage, sauce and ricotta cheese until well blended; set aside. Cook penne pasta according to package directions; drain and add to sauce mixture. Pour mixture into a large baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of pasta and then cover with provolone. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes. Cheese on top will be slightly browned and bubbly. Serves 6 – 8

Print Recipe

2 comments:

Maris said...

Love the addition of Italian sausage! Yum!

The Schwengels said...

Hi Cora! Just thought I'd check you out! Very cool website...and I can tell, your recipes will be "what's for dinner" very soon.

Did you not want to tell me your doggie's name?! Ha!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Emily