Serious Eats: Recipes

Essentials: Baked Ziti

Since the thought of another pile of paper to manage makes me cringe, I don’t keep a file of recipe clippings for the future. I can’t remember, then, what prompted me to pull this recipe from Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times a few years ago, but some part of me must have known that his baked ziti would become my most popular dish.

Unsophisticated and absurdly easy to whip up, baked ziti presents difficulty only to those of us who have trouble managing our greed. Since the measurements are so round, I don’t even have to check the recipe before I go to the store: 1 pound sausage, 1 pound pasta, 1 pound cheese, 1 can tomatoes. It freezes beautifully, which makes it the nicest of emergency dinners for nights when you’re too busy to cook but want something nicer than a tangle of sad pad thai.

Fancy fresh mozzarella works, but I think this is one place where the shredded supermarket variety does very well. San Marzano tomatoes and real Parmigiano-Reggiano, too, should probably be saved for another use. Most of the ziti’s flavor comes from the sausage, so that’s what needs to be excellent. I have never made it with bulk sausage, as he recommends; I just slice links open, remove the casing, and break the meat up in my skillet. Half spicy and half sweet Italian pork sausage is my favorite combination.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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