Baked Ziti (with a side of stress relief)

Can I tell you a secret?

Life is hard.

Right now, we are going through one of those periods where your strength is tested and you’re kind of just hanging on by a thread. Like, a really teeny tiny little thread.

Thankfully, it’s all good stress. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to have an amazing family and really be able to pursue our dreams and today we are ONE MONTH away from getting there…

One. More. Month.

But holy shit, how can we do this for one more month?! Between the working, packing, potty training, THREE DOGS, eight year old drama/attitude, fixing our house to sell, figuring out what we need for the new house, did I mention that I took three classes this semester?

I might actually be clinically insane, I don’t know.

Today, I had one of those moments where I knew that I needed some kind of release. Something that just kind of soothed my soul and got me back on track to keep on pushing.

My entire car ride home from work, I was actually hell bent on serving the kids chocolate cake for dinner. We were going to sit around the table and stuff our faces with the fluffiest, sweetest, most delectable chocolate cake and it was going to be god damn glorious.

Turns out, I didn’t have butter for my frosting so I had to be a responsible mother.

But I did need something that was good enough to warm my soul, and required enough care that I could take my focus off of everything else that I need to do.

I really believe the best recipes are those that can help you escape, like a kind of therapy session. This one hit the nail on the head.

That and my main girl, Adele. Her voice can cure anything.

Not to mention, while this is no chocolate cake- it’s so incredibly delicious that it will comfort you in a way that most foods can’t.

I mean, it’s not diet friendly by any means but what’s more important- your waist or your emotional well-being?

A healthy body doesn’t get you very far without a healthy mind, you know?

The part that sets baked ziti apart from every other pasta is the cheese. This amazing mixture of cheese, garlic, fresh parsley- OMG.

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I’ve found that most people (including myself!) don’t enjoy ricotta cheese and shy away from anything involving it. But the flavor is actually really incredible if used in the right application. This is that application.

I mix it in with the hot pasta so that it can melt and turn into a sort of alfredo sauce. The texture becomes smooth and creamy, so no one will even know it’s ricotta! It can be our little secret.

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But this isn’t a cheesey pasta first, so we can’t forget the meat sauce!

I cook up some ground sausage and just add it to store bought marinara.

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So easy.

You want to take about a cup of that mixture and toss it in to coat your cheesey noodles.

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This part gets a little gross because it’s not quite a cheese sauce, but it’s not a tomato sauce so it’s kind of stuck in sauce limbo.

Just trust me…

Ziti is also a layered dish, so here we bring in more sauce and more cheese!

Alternate- noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, cheese.

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Yes.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. You coat your noodles in the sauce so they will get all the flavors they need, so don’t bother making sure the sauce is on every piece. It will get where it needs to be, don’t you worry!

All that’s left is to bake it.

This time depends on what you want for a final product. I only leave it in for about 15 minutes, but recommend 25. I’m just not patient enough.

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Naturally, you need to throw on copious amounts of fresh basil because that’s just what you do…

Also, a nice bottle of red wine because this recipe is all about comfort and letting loose.

When you dig in, the cheese and ooey gooey goodness of everything will come full circle and it will be truly amazing. Better than chocolate cake!!!

Recipe

1 pkg ziti noodle

1/2 lb ground sausage

1 jar marinara sauce

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup shaved parmesean

1 cup shredded mozzarella

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp fresh parsley

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Cook pasta according to package, removing just before pasta is done cooking

In a separate pan, cook ground sausage and add pasta sauce

In a bowl, mix ricotta, parmesean, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper

When noodles are done, strain and coat with cheese mixture

Add 1 cup of meat sauce to noodles

Pour 1/2 of the noodles into a baking dish

Layer sauce and then 1/2 cup mozzarella on top. Repeat.

Bake for 20 minutes

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