Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spicy Baked Ziti

"Don't take this the wrong way," he says, "but this tastes kind of like the Hamburger Helper I used to make."  "Oh okay," she says, taking it the wrong way.

Just a little snippet from my my life, folks.

Don't worry, I wouldn't post a recipe of something I thought tasted like Hamburger Helper.  Just something John thought tasted like Hamburger Helper...in a good way.  (He and I are both in love with this dish and I have made it twice in two weeks.)

I will admit there is a je ne sais quoi quality to this recipe.  And it isn't that it tastes like Hamburger Helper.  It might be the eggs beaten into the sauce or the Worcestershire sauce tossed in, but there is something about this recipe that makes it taste more savory and delicious than the ingredients make it out to be.  There is no cheese at all in this recipe, yet it tastes so rich.  John's not a big cheese guy (though I didn't say he wasn't cheesy), so it works out to our benefit.

Two teaspoons of chipotle powder make this slightly spicy, but not so much that you are reaching for your big glass of water.  It just adds another depth of flavor to the dish that separates it from the more traditional baked pasta.  If you don't like spicy food, cut it down to about 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder.

In the time it takes to boil your ziti, you will have prepared a delicious meat sauce to toss with the pasta and bake.  It is simple enough to make the night you eat it, or you can make it and keep it in the fridge overnight before baking it.  Make sure you bring it close to room temperature before baking, or the je ne sais quoi in this ziti will be a lukewarm center.

Spicy Baked Ziti
From Not Your Mother's Casseroles

1 pound ziti
1 pound ground beef or pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
One 28-oz can tomato sauce (I recommend Muir Glen)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup quality dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease casserole dish with olive oil.  Cook a pound of ziti according the package directions until barely al dente.  Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, return to pot.

In a large pot or skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up until crispy and well browned.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the browned meat and turn the heat to medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the onion and garlic are softened.  Add tomato paste and chipotle and cook for another minute or two.

Stir is tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced.  Let the sauce cool for at least five minutes and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.  When cooled slightly stir in the beaten eggs.  Spread the cooked pasta in the casserole dish and pour sauce over pasta.  Mix a little, but no need to combine thoroughly.

In a small skillet heat butter over medium heat and when melted add the bread crumbs.  Cook until bread crumbs have absorbed the butter and then spread evenly over pasta.  At this point the casserole can be refrigerated for 24 hours and brought to room temperature before cooking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered, until the bread crumbs are browned.  Let stand for a couple of minutes before  serving.


  1. looks great! i'll be making this one for sure!

  2. Update: made this tonight as a "quick" post-Yosemite dinner. It was a hit with everyone, and Sarah even asked for me to send her the recipe! Thanks for the recipe!


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