One-Skillet Baked Ziti

Have you noticed how many recipes abound that call for this type of sausage or that, casings removed? Maybe it’s me – maybe it’s the whole way American meat cases are stocked; but you can usually find the same type of sausage packaged two ways – bulk and in casings. Whenever I’m cooking something that requires the sausage to be coin-cut or grilled, naturally I go for the variety sold in casings. When the first step in the instructions calls for the casing to be removed and the sausage inside to be fried, like you would any ground meat, why not buy in bulk form? If I can skip a step and have the end results the same, you can bet your bottom dollar; I’ll skip a step.images (19)
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I ask you, do you see a difference in the meat? Why buy something that requires a little more effort for the same result?  It’s just packaging – the flavor, the spices, the quality are identical.

images (20)Ziti is a short shaped pasta popular at Sicilian Weddings. The definition of the word Ziti is controversial. Some say it means “bridegrooms”, others claim the word means “spinsters or bachelors”. The Barilla Pasta company say: Ziti gets its name from the word Zita which means a young woman who is about to become a bride, or “little girl.” Still, an online search and you will find various spins such as young boys, girls, bachelors, brides-grooms, spinsters all coming together in one place. Put it all together and you have the makings for one big Italian Wedding. Or in this case, one delicious pasta dish fitting any occasion.

On a side note; years ago we had some friends that were New York-Italian transplants. When you had dinner at their house, it did not matter what type of pasta they were serving – be in a big bowl of Spaghetti or a platter of Ravioli, the question was always the same. “Did you get enough macaroni? Here, have some more macaroni.” It certainly simplified things.

One-Skillet Baked Ziti
1 lb hot or Mild Italian sausage, in bulk
1 (14.5-oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
½ (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb Ziti Pasta (Penne can also be used)
3 cups water
1 (8-oz) package shredded Italian cheese blend
Fresh Basil, for garnish

In a large (12-inch) skillet over high heat, brown sausage, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, sauce, paste, Italian seasoning, dried pasta, and water. Stir to combine, cover and bring to a boil. Boil until pasta is al dente (has a little bite to it).

Meanwhile; combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until well incorporated.

Stir ricotta mixture into pasta. Preheat oven to broil. Top skillet with shredded cheese and place in oven. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Keep a close eye on it or you will have crispy cheese pretty quick.

Garnish with basil. Serve and enjoy!

2015 We bid You Adieu

Yet another year is about to fade into memory. We pause to take stock, to look back and reflect for a moment on all the passing year has bestowed – the good times, the sad moments, the adventures, the pleasures and most of all the blessings from above both large and small.

I am thankful for my loving family. My guys are the best – allowing me to experiment in the kitchen and sample new dishes from around the world. Most of all, they wait patiently to be fed as I snap away with my trusty camera. Blog photos first, consumption second. There have been a few bombs along the way – but then aren’t mistakes simply a learning opportunity? Burnt Offerings – When Things Don’t Go as Planned is a great example of lessons learned.

I am grateful to my fellow bloggers and readers. Your feed back has been terrific – and your shares have been a delight. I have learned so much – especially from those beyond America. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to glimpse into your lives and view the world around me with a new prospective. It does not seem to matter where we live or how we live (fancy or simple) but that we live. Deep down, life, love and laughter are the unbreakable threads that bind us together.

One of the things I have enjoyed most since creating my little blog way back in 2014 are the research projects that have gone into some of the postings. Why we do the things we do? How did a particular dish evolve through the years? It is fascinating to learn the customs and traditions of people and places beyond my own. There is magic in learning.

As 2014 drew to a close, I did what so many of us did that year, I shared the top posting among readers (you can check them out at 2014 Has Been A Hoot! Thank You One and All). This year, I thought I’d share my favorites of 2015. These might not have been the top hits with the most reads, but they are the ones that hold a special place in my heart.

Farewell 2015 – with one final look back, I am eager to dash into 2016 for I know life (with all its struggles and heartaches) is filled with magic and God’s graces.


JANUARY: Cheater’s Chili To Rocks in the New Year

This simple “cheat” chili will be making an appearance again on New Year’s Day 2016

Cheater's Chili (4)


FEBRUARY: Golden Perfection Oven-Roasted Capon

I’m picking up another of these delicious birds before they are all gone for the season.

Capon Chicken (1)


MARCH: Filipino-American Pork Chops Adobo Style

I am proud of my heritage and my crazy, mixed-up roots.

Pork - Pork Adobo & Lumpia


APRIL: Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage

This is great because it travels well for pot lucks and will easily feed a hungry crowd.

Baked Ziti 1


MAY: Portuguese Marinated Surf and Turf on Rosemary Skewers

While I never did plant Rosemary in the back yard, I still have high hopes for doing so. If you haven’t had foods grilled on Rosemary Skewers, you don’t know what you are missing.

Portugues Beef on Rosemary Skewers  & Marinated Shrimp (1)


JUNE: Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Jack Daniel’s Grilling Glaze

Okay, so there was only one post for the entire month of June – bridal season keeps us busy. Oh, but what a delicious steak!

Rib-Eye with Jack Daniel's Glaze


JULY: Boozy Bourbon Meatball Appetizers

It was a real toss up between this and 4th of July Flag Cake. For deeply personal reasons, the meatball appetizers won out.

crockpot meatballs 3


AUGUST: Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce

Don’t you just love it when an old, trusted recipe inspires you to create something new?

Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce (1)


SEPTEMBER: One-Dish Chicken Supper with Potatoes and Gravy

Oh to simple pleasures and fond childhood memories!

Chicken - One Pot Chicken Dinner 02-24-2012


OCTOBER: Halloween Fun with Everyday Snack Foods

Kiddo and I had a great time “playing” with our food. And these snacks must have been good – there wasn’t a spider or broom stick left!


NOVEMBER: Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Baked Potato Soup

This was another tough choice. My favorite labor of love was all the planning and research that went into The Pleasures of Afternoon Tea. It’s a long read filled with all sorts of yummy delights. However; soup won out not only because it was delicious but because I have begun a new love-affair with the simple pleasures of soup for supper.

Baked Potato Soup


DECEMBER: Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin

For whatever reason, I seem to do my best in the kitchen in December. Perhaps it is the magic of the holidays and a deeper connection to the things that matter most – family.

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6)


On a final note, I wanted to give a special “Thank You” to a few special people who have inspired me the most in 2015 through their beautiful blogs, wonderful recipes and touching stories. Please stop by and let them know just how marvelous they truly are.

mommermom She sews, she cooks and most of she shares herself openly with others.

Tux His pictures are awesome, his approach to life uplifting and his recipes are TDF. Be sure to check out his rendition of RED VELVET CAKE WITH ERMINE ICING. I made this for Thanksgiving, just to get a jump on the Holiday season, and it was delicious.

Tasty Eats With great recipes, tips and always quick with words of encouragement even when things go wrong in my kitchen.


Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage

A few Sundays ago, Kiddo and I prepared several dishes to be cooked and served at Dad’s farm for a family Sunday Supper. I selected several yummy dishes that were easy to assemble at home, transport to the farm and finish in Dad’s oven. I wanted to cook dinner for Dad and his wife, Sue, without making a huge mess of their kitchen. I wanted to make something that traveled easily and would make our evening as stress-free as possible What could be easier? Dad preheated the oven, when we arrived I popped the dishes into the warm oven, we had a nice visit while everything cooked. Perfect. What I chose to make were two of my favorite “Italian” themed dishes – Genoa Style Stuffed Pork Loin Roast and Tuscan Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Parmesan.

We had such a lovely evening, that we’ve decided to make it a regular “thing” – a monthly gathering. And to expand the attendee to include other family members. My sister and I would do the “cooking” (doing most of the prep work at our homes), while Dad and Sue would do the “hosting” – supplying the place and the plates.

While we haven’t set a date yet for our next Sunday Family Supper, I’ve already begun searching for recipes that can be assembled at one place, then cooked at another. This task is easier said then done. Never mind the assemble, travel, cook criteria – that’s the easy part. The hard part is to find food that everyone will like. My sister has small children – with delicate pallets – nothing too fancy or spicy. Sue won’t eat chicken or rice. Dad won’t eat fish unless it’s shell-fish.  Limitation. No worries. I can work around limitations and still serve up something yummy the entire family will enjoy.

Enter the Classic Ziti Bake with Mild Italian Sausage. Easy to assemble at home. Easy to transport. Easy to pop in the oven at the farm, giving us plenty of time to visit while the Ziti bakes.  Not too spicy – or “strange” for the little ones. No chicken, rice or fish – I think this will be the perfect casserole-style dish.

Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage
1 lb Ziti, cooked according to package
1 lb Italian Sausage, casings removed (or bulk sausage)
½ Cup Chopped Yellow or White Onion
½ Cup Chopped Red Onion
4-6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with liquid
2 15-oz Containers Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Tablespoon Oregano
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a full boil.

Cook pasta al dente, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees

Chop onions, set aside. Peel garlic, set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onions. Press garlic directly into pan.
Cook until sausage is browned, breaking into small pieces. Remove from heat; drain if necessary and stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes; set aside.

Combine ricotta cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning and black pepper; mix well.

Place cooked Ziti in a rectangular casserole dish. Add 4 cups of the sauce to mixture, mix well. Spoon ricotta mixture evenly over Ziti; spread evenly. Top with remaining sauce.

Place Ziti in oven and bake 45 minutes.

Remove Ziti from oven, top with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheeses are melted.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and let rest 5 minutes before serving.


Just as a footnote: While the Ziti bakes, we’ll be feeding the new baby goats . . . what fun!