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Crowd Pleasing Baked Ziti

January 19, 2011

Since most of you reading this are my friends, and we’ve made it official by being facebook friends, you most likely know that yesterday was my birthday.  I took one step from the in-between-20-and-30 to closer-to-30.  I don’t really think that’s a big deal, but yesterday I felt very aware of how far away I am from all I’ve ever known, and my heart felt a little home sick.  The phone calls, emails and wall posts helped to cheer me up and I had a hot lunch date with my husband, got some beautiful flowers from my parents, and a birthday card in the mail from sissy, so I felt pretty loved. (Thank you all for making me feel special!)

Since Tuesday isn’t the most opportune day of the week to throw an out-of-town birthday party, we celebrated with my family this past Saturday and plan to get together with Scott’s family this coming weekend.   This would also be where the motivation to get some house projects done came from.  I wanted the day to be as stress free as possible, but I’ve never been great at planning events like this without feeling crazy the few hours before my guests arrive.  Maybe after 26 years I’ve finally learned the trick because this event was stress-free and full of fun.  The difference:  I stopped putting so much pressure on myself for things to be perfect, and I decided I didn’t need to make everything from scratch.

After figuring out who was going to be able to make the trek up to Spartanburg, I decided to make something that can be made a few days in advance and just stuck in the oven the day of.  We bought a cake from Publix along with french bread and a bagged salad.  All that was left was to make some sweet tea, and set the table.  Here’s the scene:

I already had a centerpiece from my tissue paper craft, my house had been cleaned, so I just sliced up the bread, poured some leftover, store-bought brushetta in a serving bowl and we were ready to chow down.  The dish I decided to make the day before was a classic, EASY, baked ziti.  It was a hit; it was pretty inexpensive for a crowd and it allowed me to enjoy myself rather than run around in the kitchen like a maniac while everyone else had a good time.

Baked Ziti

Adapted from Martha

i n g r e d i e n t s :
Serves 12

1 tsp each of salt and pepper
24 oz. ziti rigate (I had to use rigatoni)
3 cups park-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
3 cups shredded park-skim mozzarella
2 jars best-quality tomato sauce
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

d i r e c t i o n s :

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 5 minutes.  Drain and reserve.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 3/4 cup Parmesan and half the mozzarella with oregano, basil and season with salt and pepper.

3. In the bottom of a casserole dish, spread one jar of tomato sauce.  Top with ziti, then smear the ricotta mixture over.  Spread the other jar of tomato sauce and top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and finish with the bread crumbs.

4. Cover with tin foil until the day of the event.

5. The day of: Preheat the over to 450º.  Cook ziti with tinfoil on for about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove tin foil and finish cooking for 10 minutes or until the top layer of cheese begins to brown and bubble.

* * *


I hope you give this recipe a try next time you are hosting a party.  It’s so simple.  Here are the happy faces of my well fed crowd after lunch:

Can’t wait to celebrate with the hub’s family Friday.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathryn permalink
    January 19, 2011 2:42 pm

    That ziti looks yummy!!! We’ll be trying that one soon : )


  1. My birthday experience «

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