Words aren’t really that necessary here… If you like pasta, and you like cheese, then you LOVE baked ziti. I mean how can’t you? It’s ooey-gooey cheesy deliciousness. And you can do so much with it. Vegetables, various meats, even play around with the cheeses… but I like to keep mine pretty simple. Pasta, cheese, herbs and a little sauce. Done.
So without further ado, here is my Baked Ziti recipe!
Serves 6-8 people
1lb Dry Pasta, ziti or rigatoni
1lb Block Mozzarella, cubed
2lb Whole Milk Ricotta
2 Large Eggs
1c Grated Parmesan, two 1/2c portions
2tsp Salt + more for your pasta water
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tsp Garlic Powder
1c Fresh Basil, chopped
1c Fresh Parsley, chopped
2c Marinara Sauce
8oz Shredded Mozzarella to top
It really doesn’t get much easier than this…
Heat your oven to 350F.
Boil your dry pasta in well salted water for two minutes less than specified on the packaging. In a large bowl combine the pasta, cubed mozzarella, ricotta, eggs, 1/2c grated parmesan, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, basil, parsley and marinara sauce, make sure it’s mixed well. Pour the mixture into a deep 9×13 baking dish, then top evenly with the remaining 1/2c grated parmesan and the 8oz of shredded mozzarella. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350F, then increase the heat to 375F and bake for an additional 20 minutes to lightly brown the top. Allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Wasn’t that super easy!?
Now let’s talk wine… Truthfully, with something as simple and traditional as this I tend to keep my wine pairings pretty simple. Obviously you have to go Italian, but don’t feel the need to break the bank. Think medium to full bodied reds. If you want to really do it the right way stick with wines from Southern Italy or Sicily, as that’s where Ziti al Forno (baked ziti) was originated. Here are a few wines that I would recommend.
Tratturi Primitivo di Salento 2014, Puglia, IT – Primitivo is said to be the grandfather of Zinfandel. As a varietal it tends to be relatively bright and no-nonsense, and that is certainly the case with Tratturi. The wine is medium bodied with a very friendly fruit forward opening, and a slightly spicy mid palate and finish. There is not much to be said about Tratturi, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. This is one of those wines that you don’t feel the need to sit around and analyze, you just drink it, and usually lots of it! It is the ideal pizza and pasta wine. One thing to note, at this time this wine is only available in New York and New Jersey, so for those outside you’ll have to order online. There are a number of online retailers currently selling the wine, so it’s not going to be a hunt. PP Score: 88 (Retail $8-11)
Musto Carmelitano Maschitano Rosso 2013, Basilicata, IT – The Carmelitano family have been making wine (and olive oil) from their estate in the del Vulture region of Basilicata for four generations, but didn’t start bottling under their own name until 2007. The Maschitano Rosso is their entry level offering, made from their younger Aglianico vines, and aged entirely in concrete. The wine is surprisingly approachable for Aglianico, which is naturally a full bodied and tannic varietal that typically needs time in bottle to evolve and gain balance. In the glass is a medium to full bodied wine of dark garnet hue with hints of rust along the edges. The nose has aromas of cherry, plum, dried herbs, pipe tobacco and leather. The palate is quite lively with notes of black cherry, balsamic, and herbs, along with subtle nuances of lardon and smoke, all framed by moderate tannins and surprisingly bright acidity. This is a wonderful introduction to the varietal, and an unbelievable wine for the price. Only 1,000 cases were produced, so you may have to have your fingers do the walking on the internet to find this one… PP Score: 89 (Retail $13-16) *Certified Organic
Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2011, Sicily, IT – Valle dell’Acate is one of most storied estates in Sicily, having been established by the Jocono family in the 19th century. They have 110 hectares of land, half of which is devoted to vineyard, the other half is a world class blood orange orchard… Probably not surprising that a number of their wines have subtle orange notes! Their Cerasuolo is a blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato. Nero’s tend to be big, dark, brooding uber masculine wines while Frappato is a very soft, bright and delicate varietal (think Gamay), so when you blend the two the end result is a medium to full bodied wine with surprising depth and complexity. You’ll find notes of both black cherry as well as a hint of maraschino, blueberry, orange zest, black pepper and subtle oak, along with refreshing acidity in the opening and mid palate, and firm tannins in the long lingering finish. This wine is truly gorgeous. It can be consumed now, or laid down for up to five years. PP Score: 91 (Retail $20-25) *Practicing Organic
So there you have it, my comforting and delicious recipe for baked ziti and some amazing, yet purse friendly, wines from Southern Italy to pair with it. I hope you will try it and I KNOW if you do you’ll love it! Some new recipes are en route soon, in the meantime crack open a delicious Italian red, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!!!