Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baked ziti with mini meatballs and fresh mozzarella.

We had been craving baked ziti for weeks but I could not find a recipe that satisfied my tastes. I HATE ricotta cheese (yes, I know, I'm a horrible Italian) and finding a baked ziti recipe that doesn't include ricotta is pretty dang hard. And all those recipes that use sour cream? What is that about? Sooo I made this recipe up! And holy crap you guys it was SO GOOD!

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground pork (Yes pork tastes MUCH better as meatballs! But it's hard to do with large meatballs, that's why I use half beef and half sausage in my big ones! If you're totally opposed to using pork that's okay but it won't be as good! At least do half and half or half beef and half Italian sausage!)
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 slice bread
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/3 cup fresh parmesan (not using fresh is okay)
salt and pepper
about 1/3 cup flour spread on a plate

For the ziti part:
16 oz ziti
4 cups sauce (I use homemade sauce but you can use pretty much any jarred sauce, just don't get anything too sweet!)
1 lb fresh mozzarella (it HAS to be fresh!)
1/2 cup fresh parmesan
a pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

SO, first the meatballs:
1. Warm the milk in a small pan and cut the bread up into small pieces. Leave the pieces in the pan for a few minutes, then squeeze out the excess milk.
2. Combine the milk soaked bread with the rest of the meatball ingredients and mix with a fork or your hands.
3. Make small meatballs, about the size of a raspberry. Drop them in the flour and roll them around until they're well coated. If you use ground pork, it doesn't hold its shape as well as ground beef does. So just basically drop a small hunk of meat on the plate and it will be much easier to handle and shape once it's coated in the flour.
4. Pour enough vegetable oil in a large skillet so that the entire bottom is coated and the oil starts to come up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil and once it's hot, drop the meatballs in the oil. Brown on all sides.
5. Transfer to a paper towel and repeat with the meatballs until they're all browned.

6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7. Put a large pot of water on to boil, and add a few tsp of salt. Boil the pasta until it's al dente.
8. While the pasta's cooking, slice all of the mozzarella thinly.
9. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, toss it with the meatballs, half the mozzarella cheese, half the parmesan cheese, and the sauce.
10. Pour it into a greased 9x13 baking dish, then sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on top and top with the remaining slices of mozzarella.
11. Bake for 30 minutes! I like when the edges and top are kind of crispy, so if you like that too bake for closer to 35!

It was so good we ate more than half the dish by ourselves last night!

YUM! If you try it let me know how you like it!

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