There are enough surprises in store from the final season of the Sopranos. We don't want any surprises or frou-frou food for a Sunday night meal. Our Italian themed Sopranos menu must be hearty, tasty, and relatively straightforward to prepare (this is afterall a team effort). A base of excellent ingredients from Lucca Ravioli and the Mission produce markets set us up right.
Making Baked Ziti with Turkey Meatballs didn't go smoothly. The heat sensors in our LOUD fire alarms kept going off, and we had a mess to clean up when the (as Oscar predicted) Baked Ziti boiled over in the final five minutes of cooking. Although our apartment smelled wonderful, it became smoky. Opening windows would solve that, but it was hailing and raining outside. Once we turned the fan on and opened some windows, things calmed down just in time for the show opening. It was comforting to have a steaming bowl of meaty-cheesy goodness as we made bets on the fates of the Sopranos.
The below recipes are from epicurious.com, via Gourmet magazine. We used a blend of fresh herbs rather than use dried. Expect a crispy crunchy exterior from the cheese melting and ziti drying out in the oven.
BAKED ZITI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS
1 pound ground turkey
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ziti or penne
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (about 3 ounces)
about 6 cups winter tomato sauce
a 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
In a bowl stir together well turkey, garlic, bread crumbs, onion, pine nuts, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper and form into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook half of meatballs, shaking skillet, until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towels to drain and brown remaining meatballs in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same manner.
Preheat oven to 375°F. and oil a 3- to 4-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.
In a kettle of salted boiling water cook pasta until just al dente, about 8 minutes, and drain well. In a small bowl toss together mozzarella and Romano.
Spoon about 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce and half of meatballs into prepared dish and spoon half of pasta on top. Spread half remaining sauce and half cheese mixture over pasta. Top with remaining meatballs and drop dollops of ricotta over meatballs. Spread remaining pasta over ricotta and top with remaining sauce and remaining cheese mixture.
Bake ziti in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden, and let stand
10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.
WINTER TOMATO SAUCE
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
two 28- to 32-ounce cans whole Italian tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
In a heavy 5-quart saucepan cook onion, carrot, celery, garlic, basil, oregano, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until vegetables are softened and add wine. Boil wine until most is evaporated and stir in tomato paste and tomatoes with reserved juice.
Simmer sauce, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, 35
minutes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes, or
until thickened. Discard bay leaf. Sauce may be made 2 days in advance and kept
covered and chilled.
Makes 6 cups.