Here’s the authentic recipe, straight from Italy, for succulently baked ziti with sausage and zucchini. It all gets layered, similar to lasagna, but without all the hassle of culinary perfection—al dente ziti macaroni, rich pasta sauce, tender Italian sausage, three kinds of cheeses, and. . .a big chunk of garlic bread to round out the offering. Mangia, mangia!!
1 pound ziti, cooked al dente
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
3 small zucchini, quartered and diced
2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 teaspoons Frank Davis Sicilian Seasoning (to taste)
6 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
2 cups shredded provolone cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Fresh ground black pepper as desired
1 cup coarsely grated Fontina cheese
2 large peeled cloves fresh garlic
4 cups Romaine lettuce, broken into pieces
2 cups Caesar dressing
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 whole loaf Italian bread, baked and toasted
1. First, boil the ziti until it becomes al dente in a pot of salted water.
2. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, and zucchini. When the mixture becomes wilted, soft, and tender, toss it into the ziti, making sure it is evenly and uniformly distributed. Then set the flavored pasta off to the side for a while.
3. Now in the same skillet that you did the sautéing in, drop in the broken up sausage—both regular and hot—and fry it down until no pink is detected and the meat turns a toasty brown. As it sautés, sprinkle in the Sicilian seasoning and uniformly stir in the pasta sauce. When the mix is complete, turn the fire down to medium-low and allow the meat sauce to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
4. At this point you can begin assembling the dish:
a) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
b) In an 11 x 14-inch Pyrex baking dish (or a disposable aluminum pan), lay down a layer of pasta sauce, followed by a layer of sautéed sausage.
c) Scatter a layer of ziti over the sauce and meat, followed by a layer each of the provolone, mozzarella, Parmesan, and the sour cream. Then finish up the layer by evenly scattering on a smidgeon of minced fresh basil
d) Immediately repeat the layering process in the same order—sauce, ziti, sausage, provolone, mozzarella, Parmesan, sour cream, and basil. Continue repeating the process over and over until the baking pan is full of layered ingredients.
5. Just before you’re ready to slide the pan into the oven, generously sprinkle the casserole with an ample amount of fresh ground black pepper and “heavily” sprinkle on the crowning cheese—the Fontina. Simply grate it over the top of the finished pan of ingredients. When the top cap is nice and thick, bake the dish for about 25 to 30 minutes—uncovered—or until the cheese becomes a golden, toasty brown and the pasta is steamy and bubbly.
6. All that’s left is to present the casserole to your family and guests along with a large chunk of hot, crusty, garlic bread and a bowl of chilled Caesar salad, complete with garlic croutons and another sprinkle of grated Parmesan.
A glass of chilled red wine is the perfect coup de grace for this pasta creation.
And. . .should you want to add a little lagniappe to the dish, sliced Baby Bella mushrooms go good as one of the layers between pasta, sauce, and sausage.