Friday, March 23, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Creamy Baked Ziti / Full Blue Moon for Easter

The weather has been a bit strange, what with the snow storms to the east of us and the tornadoes to the south of us.
I’m praying everyone stays safe and well while Mother Nature makes up her mind.
The thing is, crazy weather notwithstanding, we’ll be celebrating Easter next weekend, and that means making a holiday feast.

By now you know Ma’s favourite holiday trick: ALWAYS serve a nice hefty, filling pasta dish as a first course. That way there’ll be a large amount of the main course's roast left over for a meal or two during the following week.

Ma had her priorities: Nobody should away from the table feeling hungry, but the wallet should get a much deserved break.
Ma didn't work at Lily Tulip because she thought it was a fun thing to do.

And, if you're serving something with bones, don’t forget to make a pot of soup.
The crazy weather isn’t through with us just yet.

Happy Easter!

Looking for other pasta recipes to start your holiday dinner? Here are a few old favourites:

Anna Sultana's Timpana - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana's Imqarrun il-forn - Baked Macaroni, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana’s Rigatoni Pizzaiola (Rigatoni, Pizzamaker's Style)

Anna Sultana's Timbale - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

Anna Sultana's Timballo with Pastry - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

And let's not forget Carmela's recipes...

Carmela Soprano's Ziti al Forno / Baked Ziti with Tiny Meatballs

Carmela Soprano's Pasta all' Amatriciana (Bucatini Amatrice - Style)


This recipe also works with penne, mostaccioli or rigatoni.

The sauce amount is up to you. 
Some prefer a dryer baked dish, while others like something verging on a soup.

If you don’t have, or don’t like, sour cream or cream cheese you can leave them out and use 1 to 2 Cups of heavy cream or ricotta.

This casserole can be prepared ahead of time. 
Refrigerate up to 8 hours. When ready to serve, bake, uncovered, in 375º F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is heated through.

If you want to make a non meat-free meal of this dish you can add 1 pound cooked ground chicken, turkey or beef (or a beef / pork mixture), or sausage meat - or a mixture of any of the above - to the sauce before combining it with the pasta.
Have leftover cooked meatballs? They can be placed on top of the pasta before baking.
Serve with a salad and crusty Italian or sourdough bread for a full meal.

Want veggies in the casserole? 
Mushrooms, chopped spinach, onions or zucchini, or eggplant slices could be added.

The leftover Marinara Sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for another meal.

                        Creamy Baked Ziti 

8 servings

Marinara Sauce 

in a heavy-bottomed pot combine
2  28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1  6 ounce can tomato paste
6 bay leaves
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled 
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt (to taste)
1 Cup cold water

Over medium heat bring the sauce to a boil. 
Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 2 hours.
Stir occasionally, and add water, as necessary.
Remove bay leaves and garlic before serving.


Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan

In a large pot bring to boil
4 quarts water
4 Cups ziti
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain. Set aside the pasta and use the same large pot to continue.

Place in large pot
4 to 5 Cups Marinara Sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed 
Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is blended. 
Return pasta to the pot and mix well. 

Heat oven to 375º F

Place half of the pasta mixture in the prepared pan.
Spread over the top of the pasta layer
1/2 to 3/4 Cup sour cream
Sprinkle over the sour cream
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
spread the remaining pasta mixture over the cheese.
Top with
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese 
Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. 

About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

March 28 - The planets Venus and Uranus are in close conjunction, the second-closest of all of 2018 (the conjunction of Mars with Neptune on December 7, 2018, will be closer). Venus passes only 4 minutes of arc (0.066-degree) south of Uranus - that’s equal in apparent dimensions to almost twenty-three Venus disk diameters. Least separation between the two planets will take place at 8:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. For western time zones the Sun will still be up, but the two planets will still be nearly as close when darkness arrives.  The only drawback is that you’ll have to wait until the background twilight sky has sufficiently darkened for you to sight Uranus. Wait until about an hour after sundown, but be aware that by that time the planet duo will be very low – only about 6 degrees above the western horizon.

March 31 - A full Blue Moon at 8:37 a.m. A “Blue Moon” occurs when there are two full Moons within a calendar month. 
The term is also has another definition - it’s also used when there are four moons in a season; the third of these is referred to as a “Blue Moon.”  

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