Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Way to an Italian's Heart

I dedicate my first entry to Stephanie, a friend whose love life might just need a simple Italian Sausage and Pepper Ziti recipe.

* 1 pound hot Italian sausage
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
* 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch slices
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
* 2 28oz. cans Italian peeled tomatoes drained and finely chopped (Get them
pre-chopped unless you want a huge tomato-juicy mess all over your counter!)

* 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a cheap Pinot Noir. Red Zinfandel is a good pasta wine too.)
* 2 tsp. paprika
* 1 pound ziti
* 1 1/4 cups Mozzarella cheese shredded (I suggest using more cheese or saving this entire portion for the top of the casserole to prevent the noodles from hardening in the oven. Same goes for the Ricotta cheese.)
* 1/4 cup Ricotta cheese

1. Cut your peppers into chunks after removing the guts, i.e. seeds and stem. The exact size matters less than the attempt to make each roughly the same size, nearing 1/2 inch.

2. Chop up 3 cloves of garlic. If you are like me and you constantly have the dregs of tiny cloves to use, this might mean 5 or 6 "cloves."

3. Start cooking your whole sausages on medium-high heat in a deep skillet.

Be sure to prick them with a fork as they cook in order to release the juices. You should also turn the sausages to prevent burning on one side. Achieving a nice outer browning should take about 10 minutes. They WON'T be cooked all the way through at this point! Remove them from the skillet to allow slight cooling.

4. Add 1 tbsp of the olive oil and all the garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, until golden, for about 1 minute on medium low heat.

5. Stir in the green and red bell peppers, salt and crushed red pepper and cook until the bell peppers just begin to soften. This will take about 10 minutes.

6. In between stirring the pepper mixture to prevent burning, cut your sausage into roughly 1/2 inch chunks. They will cook most evenly if the chunks are held to similar thicknesses. At this time, you should also cook the ziti in boiling water according to the instructions on the box.

7. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, red wine and paprika to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.

9. And toss the cooked ziti noodles in the remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil.

10. Now you're ready to layer the ingredients into a 9x13in. Pyrex baking dish. Begin with about half the sausage and pepper mixture. Next add half the ziti noodles. Repeat. Lastly, top the dish with the mozzarella and small chunks of ricotta cheese, being careful to cover the noodles as thoroughly as possibly.

11. Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes.

12. Invite your man over, pour the remaining red wine and light some candles. Just 12 easy steps al cuore.

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