This past weekend while visiting my parents, I whipped up a delicious Jersey-style ziti rendition. While baked ziti is pretty straightforward – rigatoni, marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella – I figured we could make things interesting by mixing in a healthy dose of Jersey-style sausage-n’-pepps into the marinara sauce (pronounced sauuuce, with an Italiano flick of the wrist).
- 1 box whole wheat rigatoni
- 4-6 links of fresh Italian sausage, uncased and sliced
- 1-2 lbs fresh mozzarella, chopped
- 1 cup of ricotta
- 1-2 jars marinara sauce (or homemade, ideally)
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- 3 bell peppers (combo of red and green), sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Italian breadcrumbs
- Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1) The first step is to stir up a batch of sausage-n’-pepps. Start by adding in the bell peppers to a medium-heat, large pan with a liberal dosage of olive oil. Once the peppers start to soften up mix in the onion, followed by the sausage, and finally the garlic. Just like that, you’ll have your house smelling like the jail scene in Goodfellas in no time – ehh, ba fangul.
2) Once the sausage is nearly cooked (it will cook through in the oven), add in your marinara sauce – ideally homemade – and let the sausage-n’-pepps slip and slide into the sauuuce for 10 – 15 minutes. If you’re sipping on some vino rosso (which you should be already), feel free to add a splash or two into the sauuuce, for good measure.
3) Meanwhile, boil up a box or two of rigatoni, al dente, then strain.
4) Gently mix the al dente rigatoni, sausage-n’-pepps sauuuce, small spoonfuls of ricotta, and mozzarella sauce into an oven-safe serving dish. Sprinkle the top with Italian bread crumbs and freshly grated Parmesan sauce.
5) Place the ziti into a 350° oven for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
6) Buon appetito!