cheesy bake

I’ve been eating so much ground beef lately (made a monster meat loaf this past weekend), that when it came time to think about dinner last night, I was in the mood for something different. I like the flavor of ground turkey; I feel as though it lends itself well to baked pasta dishes and doesn’t make the dish feel very heavy. When the boy and I were first dating, he used to make something we called Cheesy Bake, which was a baked ziti dish somewhat similar to this recipe. I can’t recall the exact ingredients, so I decided to recreate it since it’s been a number of years since we’ve had it last.

This will feed a bunch of people (about 8 good servings), especially if served with some garlic bread and a green salad with a nice acidic vinaigrette. You could omit the ground turkey altogether if you want something vegetarian, and you could omit the wine if you don’t have any around, although I think it brings a nice flavor to it. Also, make whatever tomato sauce you feel like, but I like the use of all the fresh herbs in this one and it’s quite flavorful. The sauce shouldn’t take you long to throw together.

I like the use of romano, because romano is fantastically salty and sharp. If you don’t feel like splurging on romano, you could use all parmesan, but for heaven’s sake, DO NOT use the stuff in the green can. I have no idea how or why, but we’ve got one in our fridge. I did not put it there. i’m going to blame the elves. They come in the middle of the night and do things like leave half empty soda cans lying around. You know how when you do laundry, you always end up missing a sock or two and you have no idea what happened to them? It’s the elves. They also like to take big bites of cheese, leaving teeth imprints on the cheese, before replacing in the fridge. I’m going to drop kick an elf if I happen to catch one.

Cheesy Bake (baked ziti with turkey)

Couple of tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
Couple of tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 lb ground turkey
Salt and pepper, to season turkey
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
A couple of slugs (about a ¼ cup) of red wine
1 cup basil, rolled up and chiffonaded
3 tablespoons minced oregano
1 tablespoon minced thyme
½ to 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1 lb ziti
½ lb good mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes
½ lb good mozzarella cheese cut into slices
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup grated romano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta until almost al dente, then remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the ground turkey. Brown the turkey while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When all the pink is gone, drain, set turkey aside.

In same pan, heat the olive oil and butter until melted, and add the onion. Sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for another minute or two before adding the crushed tomatoes and the wine, and bring to a simmer; cook for 5 minutes. Add all the fresh herbs, the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Sauce is done.

Butter a large lasagna pan. Toss cooked turkey, sauce, cubed mozzarella, the romano cheese, and ¼ cup of the parmesan together, and pour into pan. Put the slices of mozzarella on top, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, and bake for 30 minutes until bubbly.


Karyn said…
looks delicious! I haven't had pasta in a looong time - I need to fix that quick!
french tart said…
thanks! be sure to use really good cheese. i think that makes all the difference in the world.

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