Johnny Gattuso's Baked Ziti You Can't Refuse

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In honor of LoungieMu's mob post and in deference to my desire to create one of these food threads, I decided this evening that I was going to sit down and figure out just what the hell the big deal was with baked ziti. I'm a big Soprano's fan, and fan of all things mob in general, and it's painfully obvious that baked ziti is a staple of the Italian-American diet. What's the big deal? Oh man, I found out. As with all things, I figured it needed to be done right, so I studied up on the INTARWEB and cobbled together this recipe. I can assure you, if it ain't the best fuckin' ziti ever, it's damn close...

You will need[edit]

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound sweet italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound hot italian sausage
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 28-ounce can whole peeled marzano tomatoes
  • 1 can marzano tomato paste
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Basil

EDIT: Don't add oil to the pasta water, it's a waste. Also, don't wash the pasta after, as it washes away the proteins/starch that help the sauce stick to the pasta. Now we know. Thanks!

Here is where we're going:

Here is how we get there:

Get the real deal sausage. I got it at AJ's, if you're out west you can find it there. Remove the casings and crumble...


Crumbled. Add two teaspoons of olive oil, and proceed to browning...


Now for the sauce ingredients. Use real Italian San Marzano tomatoes - seriously, this shit makes all the difference in the world. Doesn't have to be grown in Italy either.


Puree it (not too much).


Cut your onion.


Gather your other fresh spices - also, go fresh. Screw that dried shit. Pictured here: basil, thyme, garlic.


Judo chop!


Add onions and garlic to now-browned sausage. Cook for a few more minutes until transparent.


Add your tomato puree.


Add your chopped spices. Stir this up and let it simmer on low for 10 minutes.


Time to get the pasta boiling.


I'm not one of those snobs that says you have to have boiling water first... but make sure your pasta doesn't stick together while cooking. Add some olive oil to aid in this process.


Using real deal cheeses is a must. Grate your own parmesan, and get FRESH mozarella. You can tell the difference. It's wet and sweet like ricotta.


Cut the mozarella half of it into 1/2 inch cubes, the other half in as thin of slices as you can manage.


Add a can of tomato paste to your sauce to thicken it up and give it a lively red color and more intense flavor.




Pasta should be "al dente" - tender, but firm. Avoid soggy, you still have to bake it some. Do not wash pasta, the starch is what makes it awesome.


Add the pasta, your sauce, the mozarella and half the parmesan in a baking dish. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch of the pepper flakes.


Mix it all up...


Top with the sliced mozarella and the remainder of the parmesan.


Bake this bad boy for about 30 minutes until golden...




Guaranteed to please even the most hardened mobster!!