Baked Ziti

Don't you enjoy those rainy days when you curl up in a blanket holding a warm bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta? The first time I made this dish was for my 3rd grade Thanksgiving luncheon. The best baked ziti I have eaten was in the city I was born, Buffalo, New York.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

- 1 tbsp butter, more if needed

- 1/2 tbsp olive oil, more if needed

- 8 oz sliced mushrooms

- 3 cloves garlic, minced

- 1 tsp dried oregano

- 1 tsp dried basil

- 1 lb uncooked ziti pasta

- 1 lb 10 oz. Trader Joe's

marinara pasta sauce or the same 

amount of homemade pasta sauce

- 2 cups shredded mozzarella 

- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

- 2 1/2 tbsp grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add butter and olive oil and heat to a simmer. Add the sliced onions, salt and pepper; then sauté until soft, for about about 8 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms, then continue to sauté for another 4-5 minutes.

  2. Add a bit more butter if pan is dry. Add the grated garlic, oregano, and basil, then stir for 1-2 minutes. Stir in red wine and let it cook, stirring for 1 minute.

  3. Cook your ziti pasta according to package instructions. Then drain it.

  4. In a 9×13-inch 2-inch deep casserole/baking dish, spread a thin layer of marinara in bottom, then layer* half of the ziti, onions and mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan, all of the ricotta, sauce, repeat (except ricotta), ending with a generous layer of mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan. (If you want you can stir everything except the pasta and the ricotta. Layer it like this: pasta, sauce mix, ricotta, sauce mix and ending with the mozzarella.

  5. Bake in 350-degree F° oven until cheese has melted, for about 15-20 minutes.

  6. Optional - add in 1 lb of cooked or grilled chicken pieces layered in with the mushrooms for extra protein.