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Baked Ziti

Ingredients :

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. package Barilla ziti or penne pasta
  • 24 oz. jar marina sauce
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced, or grated
  • 1 tsp. McCormick dried oregano
  • sprinkle (1/4 tsp.) red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. Morton salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 c. finely grated parmesan cheese (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 1/2 c. water that pasta was boiled in
  • 1 c. Kraft shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c. Hormel pepperoni slices (optional)

Instructions

Put a large pot of water over on high heat to cook the pasta in. Chop the onion and grate or mince the garlic. Heat another pot over medium heat; swirl a teaspoon of olive oil in the pot and add the hamburger and the chopped onion. Stir and chop the ground beef to brown on all sides; when the meat has just a tinge of pink left, stir in the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for a few more minutes.

When the water boils, add a spoonful of salt and pour the dry ziti or penne pasta into the water. Give it a stir and set a timer for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, add the jar of marina sauce, the can of cream of mushroom soup, and the half cup of grated parmesan cheese to the meat mixture. Stir to combine and turn off the heat. Preheat the oven to 350.

When the pasta has cooked for 8 minutes (the package says to cook 10-12 minutes, but you want it slightly under cooked because it will finish in the oven when you bake the casserole), add it to the meat and marina sauce, along with half a cup of the pasta water. Stir together and pour into a casserole pan or a 9 x 13 x2 inch cake pan. Arrange the pepperoni slices on top and then sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella. Give a final sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Serve to your best friends or devour yourself. After consuming two servings for his dinner tonight, Larry has offered to be “on call” to answer any questions regarding the taste of this dish; he used a lot of hand motions and kissing noises to describe it to me! Perhaps it was the Italian wine talking.

Here are some ideas if you want to fancy up this dinner:

– substitute bulk italian sausage for the ground beef

– use fresh, grated parmesan instead of the stuff in the green can

– use fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, instead of the shredded stuff in a bag

– roughly chop a handful of fresh basil leaves and stir into the meat sauce and pasta

– add some fresh, thinly sliced mushrooms to the ground beef and onion as they brown in the pot

– if all you have is elbow macaroni, just use that instead of the pasta

– if you are in a pinch, it is fine to leave out the onions and garlic (although it will result in a more bland end product) and to omit the pepperoni

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