The first time I ever had this dish was many years ago when I went with a girlfriend to a big wedding for her sister and they had this at the rehearsal dinner along with sliced ham and cheese on kaiser rolls. This is a favorite with our family during the holidays and my kids look for it at least once during Christmas, but we also like it during the rest of the year as well as it is quick to put together on a busy week night. Since Rod is going bowling and Jr is studying for a college exam I figured this was a good night for Speedy Ziti with bread sticks instead of ham and cheese rolls. The ingredient list is very short and you may have some of the ingredients in your kitchen already.
For the bread sticks you will need :
2 1/2 cups bread flour – scoop the flour into cup not with spoon before leveling or you will not have enough flour for the dough and it will be runny, trust me on this one!!
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil for drizzling
1 teaspoon garlic powder for sprinkling onto dough
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese – reserved from bag being used for ziti
For the Speedy Ziti you will need :
1 box Ziti Rigatoni – what ever brand you prefer, I like Ronzoni
1 large can 26.5 ounce Hunts Pasta Sauce with meat
1 package of Hot Italian Sausage- this package weighed 1.25 pounds
1 – 8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese
Let’s get started, first get a large pot of water heating up on the stove for the ziti noodles. Now on to the bread sticks. First, combine the flour, salt, yeast and water in a bowl. Blend well, if you have a stand mixer continue on low to knead the dough until smooth. If the dough seems a bit wet add a couple of tablespoons more flour, every kitchen is different and humidity affects the flour as well. If you do not have a stand mixer you can place flour on lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth which is about 15 minutes. After the dough is nice and smooth place in bowl that has been oiled with olive oil, turn dough to coat with the olive oil as you see in the photo below and then cover with a clean towel or cloth and let rest 15-20 minutes while you get the ziti going. This gives the yeast time to do its thing. Go ahead and turn on your oven on now to 375 degrees farenheit to get preheated.
Now while the dough is resting, the pot of water should be boiling or almost getting ready to boil for the noodles. Salt the water really well with at least a tablespoon of salt to the water and pour box of ziti noodles and cook to box directions, about 8 minutes for baked pasta dishes, you do not want to cook the noodles completely as they will finish in the over in that glorious sauce.
While the noodles are taking their hot tub bath, get a large non-stick skillet, large enough to cook the sausage and mix in the sauce when meat is cooked.
If you get the italian sausage with the casings, just cut a slit along the side and peel off the casing and place sausage in the pan. If your store has the sausage without the casing that saves you one step.
By the way, even though the sausage is labeled “hot”, it is not hot or spicy in my opinion and once blended in the sauce the sausage seasons the sauce perfectly. The mild sausage may be better for those with stomach issues though my grand children have been eating this since they little and they have not had any problems, but use your own taste buds and stomachs to see which you prefer. You can even use your own homemade pasta sauce and add your own seasonings as well, just I am all out of home canned tomato sauce until mid summer when the tomatoes are back in season for canning. This is another recipe which is more of a beginning technique and lets you embellish at will to make it your own, don’t you just love those kinds of recipes. Oh, guess I better get back to cooking.
Cook the italian sausage, breaking up as it cooks until crumbly just like when you cook hamburger for chili. Drain the fat from the sausage and place back into the pan. Add the can of Hunts Pasta Sauce with Meat to the pan and let the mixture simmer until heated thru. Once heated thru you are ready to put the ziti together.
This time I used my 2 quart baking casserole dish, placed two spoonfuls of sauce in bottom to keep pasta from sticking to bottom.
Layer the ziti and sauce into the dish with the last of the sauce finishing the top layer. Cover the pasta with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degree farenheit for 25 minutes, remove from oven, uncover pasta and the sprinkle shredded cheese onto the top of the pasta and put back into the over uncovered until cheese is melted about 5-7 minutes depending on your oven.
Now back to your bread stick dough. Coat a large heavy bottom cookie sheet really well with Crisco, if you use cooking spray be sure to spray extra heavy. Now dump dough into the pan and press dough out until bottom of pan is covered. Drizzle the dough lightly with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, no need to spread the oil just drizzle. Sprinkle the dough with the garlic powder and the shredded mozzarella cheese. If you have parmesan cheese in the refrigerator you can sprinkle that on the dough as well if you like. If you want some other seasonings on your bread sticks go for it, they are your bread sticks. Score the dough into bread stick lengths with a metal spatula, by pressing down thru the dough until cut thru, if you use a knife if slides and tears so spatula is easier.
Place bread sticks into the oven on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until browning on the edges. You can also check the bottom of the dough and if it is starting to brown they are done.
If the cheese is melted on the ziti when you put bread sticks into the oven, remove the ziti from the oven and set aside to rest and cool down before serving as the ziti will be steaming hot. I served the speedy ziti with the bread sticks and a fresh salad.
I hope you enjoy this dinner as well as we do. Until next time from my kitchen to yours “Yellowrock”