“Baked Ziti for My American Friends” Signature Pasta Dish

Born and raised by a full-blooded Italian woman, how could pasta NOT be my favorite food! Receiving an opportunity to share My Signature Pasta Dish in conjunction with SocialMoms.com and Carrabas Pasta Personality Promotion was a perfect fit!

My closest friends will tell you Baked Ziti is my Signature Pasta Dish. For me baked ziti is known as pasta for My American Friends! The history of this baked ziti dish stems from a long-lived family tradition. For many generations my family gathered on Christmas Eve to enjoy The Feast of Seven Fishes prior to attending midnight mass. Our Christmas Eve feast was originally held at Grandmas house, then passed on to my mother. Today I am the custodian of the tradition.

Moving to Florida in the early 1980s and without family for some time, I forged friendships that I consider family. Every Christmas my parents would come and stay at our house. Together my mother and I prepared Christmas Eve dinner. Friends attended our Christmas Eve celebration as well. As it went, my parents and several other family members moved south. I can remember having over fifty people for The Feast of Seven Fishes. This feast included what my friends called “hard core” Italian food. We traditionally served baked cod with lemon and capers, spaghetti with anchovy, fried smelts, baccala salad, and calamari marinara. Other fishy pasta dishes such as clams and linguine (Linguine con le Vongole) or spaghetti with mussels (Spaghetti con le Cozze) was included. Are you feeling the “hard core” concept?

Anyhow, to accommodate my dear friends, and some of the in-laws, I served up a big pan of Baked Ziti for

my American friends and announced it as such. This phrased turned out to be My Signature Pasta Dish among close friends as well as a longstanding joke. I hope you will enjoy my signature pasta dish with your family.

Baked Ziti Signature Pasta

Baked Ziti for my American Friends Recipe

1 lb Ziti
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 egg
3 tbsp parsley (flakes or fresh diced)
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb ground meat-turkey beef or pork
1/2 cup onion chopped small
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tbsp basil
1 20 oz can diced petite tomatoes
1 jar spaghetti sauce

First, prepare the sauce. While I like to make my own spaghetti sauce, when I have a big meal to prepare, I start with a jar sauce and “doctor it up” as my mom would say. Begin by browning the meat of choice in a pot big enough to hold the finished sauce. After browning the meat, drain off excess fat, if necessary. Next, add the onions and allow cooking for just a few minutes. Then add the jar sauce along with the diced tomatoes, and the fennel seed. Top off the sauce with basil. Stir well, cover, and cook on low for about an hour. Check and stir occasionally.

Now prepare the pasta. Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the ziti according to package instructions. Drain and add to a 13 x 9 baking dish or pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, garlic powder, egg, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix well. Add salt & pepper to taste and mix again. To this, slowly add about 1 ladle of spaghetti sauce. Mixture should be pink, not red. Add cheese mixture to Ziti and mix well. Top with a small stream of sauce and the second cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are slightly brown.

Carrabas Signature Pasta and Personality

In support of Carrabas, my favorite Italian restaurant, and Socialmoms.com I took Carrabas Pasta Personality Quiz. Evidently, Tagliarini Pasta with Picchi Pacchiu sauce is Carrabas choice for my personality.

“Carrabba’s Tag Pic Pac is a classic with a tasty twist, perfect for someone who likes to put their own twist on things! You’re vivacious with zest for life. And since you like everything in life to be full-flavored, you won’t be let down when you taste this tagliarini pasta with Picchi Pacchiu sauce.”

I had fun completing their Pasta Personality Quiz on facebook. If you are a pasta lover like me, I’m certain you will enjoy taking the pasta personality quiz too!

What’s more, Carrabas is offering these delicious Signature Pasta Meals now through July 2011.

Featured Signature Pasta Meal:
Pasto Rambo – Named for the chef who created it, it’s made with shrimp tossed with imported Italian linguine, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes sautéed in our basil lemon butter sauce. Lobster is available instead of shrimp for an additional cost.

Other Limited Time Offers:
Parmesan-crusted Chicken – Topped with fresh arugula and grape tomatoes tossed in a hand-prepared lemon vinaigrette, served with choice of side. Substitution of wood-grilled chicken also available. Pairs well with Estancia Pinot Grigio.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin – Three pork tenderloin medallions wrapped with prosciutto, wood-grilled and topped with an apple and fig infused port wine sauce, served with the vegetable of the day. Pairs well with Coppola Pinot Noir.

Limoncello Bread Pudding – Back by popular demand! Brioche bread pudding made with fresh Madagascar vanilla beans and a rich custard, served hot out of the oven. Topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and drizzled with Carrabba’s homemade Caravella Limoncello liqueur sauce.

Buon appetito!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Carrabba’s blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”