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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Baked Ziti

Some days (cough *most days* cough) I really, really miss college theme parties.  However, I am never one to let being out of college stop me from planning a theme party.  In fact, I am The (self-designated) Spirit Coordinator for the WAKA kickball team, Down 'n' Dirty, and I love planning theme nights for the team to boost morale.  More kickball stories to come soon.

St. Patrick's Day was, in college, similar to Cinco de Mayo or Texas Independence Day- a holiday that I never gave much thought until my freshman year of college, but now look forward to annually.  My St. Patrick's Days have, since 2005, been filled with green clothes, green jewelry, and green beer.  This year, I had to work 1:30-10:00pm on St. Patrick's Day, but that wasn't about to get this green-eyed girl down.  I sported my green scrub pants to work with pride, and I quizzed the patients on "fun facts" about St. Patty.  I think this was much more entertaining to me than the kiddos, but, nonetheless, we were makeshift-celebrating.  (For example: The real St. Patrick wasn't even Irish! He was born in Britain!)

MaryEllen and I in our "I (Shamrock) Beer" Shirts for St. Patty's 2009
Due to my limited time to celebrated the holiday on actual St. Patrick's Day, the Saturday after St. Patty's Day, I decided to have a cookout.  My cookout consisted of about 20 of my closest friends, all decked out in our green shirts/hats/shorts/etc.  Everyone was to bring their own drink of choice, and I provided the burgers.  I also decided to make French Fries (Ore Ida- super simple, in the freezer aisle) to go with our burgers.  When pulling out the French Fries, I knocked my hand against the oven, burning the living daylights out of my finger.  As the blister quickly formed, I desperately tried to pick up the scalding hot fries that had fallen all over inside of the oven and on the floor.  Turns out the fries were a bust, and I have a scar on my left hand to constantly remind me of my mishap.

Jennifer, MaryEllen, Brynne, and Me at Dallas' Greenville Avenue St. Patty's Celebration, 2009
About now, you may be wondering why I'm talking about burgers and fries when the recipe is titled Baked Ziti.  Well, here it goes.  I found and then adapted an awesome recipe for Baked Ziti with low-fat sausage in it.  I was very eager to make it, so I adventured to WallyWorld (Wal-Mart for all of you non-Texans), grabbed a buggy (shopping cart), and went Wal-Martin.  That's how we do it in Texas.  I had everything ready to go, preheated my oven, and suddenly smelled something burning.  I opened my oven and smoke and flames jumped out on me.  French fries that had fallen into cracks in the bottom of the oven were on fire.  Holy cow- I am burning down my house.  What do I do? I know how to cook but know ZIP about kitchen fires!! Time to get my dog, baby blanket, teddy bear, computer, camera, and sca-doodle out of here! 

Then rational Kate kicked in.  I had gone to the firehouse at Mayfest every year when I was younger, surely I remember something from there! Stop, drop, and roll! Nope, that's if I'm on fire.  I had no. clue. what to do.  Water- water puts out fires.  I filled a cup of water, and I threw it in the oven.  It sizzled, I shrieked, and I jumped to turn off the oven.  What to do, what to do.  Call my mom.  Moms ALWAYS know what to do.

Kate: "Umm... mom? My oven caught on fire, and I threw a cup of water on it, but now what do I do?"
Mom: "YOU DID WHAT?! NO NO NO! You could put out the pilot light or make the fire worse somehow!  Throw a wet towel on the flame or baking soda- yeah, baking soda!"
Kate: "Welllllll, the flame is already out.  But I need the oven back on for a new recipe- it'll be okay... right?"

Per my amazing mom's instructions, I turned the oven back on and let those ridiculous fries burn into ash.  For further info, here's how to handle an oven fire in the future.  As it turns out, my Baked Ziti still turned out amazingly delicious and is now one of our top favorite meals.

Andy liked it so much the first time, I decided to give it a go again last week.  In keeping with my love of themes, of course ANOTHER fire broke out.  I have an open flame stove top, and a paper towel was laying on the counter top.  Open flame + paper towel... you do the math.  This one was a bit less dramatic.  No, I didn't throw baking soda on it (although that is now readily available in my cabinet), but it was easily smothered.  So here's the Baked Ziti recipe, and here's to hoping that it doesn't bring with it quite the drama and "excitement" that it has brought me.  Keep in mind, make sure your oven doesn't have any leftovers stuck in it when you preheat ;-)

At Delaney's Irish Pub for St. Patty's Day 2011
Baked Ziti with Low-Fat Sausage
Kate Strickland
Servings: 4; Weight Watchers PointsPlus Value: 13 (these are large servings, you can definitely make it into 6 servings for smaller appetites!)

Baked Ziti with Low-Fat Sausage

  • 3/4 lb raw sausage (I use the least low fat I can find- 96/4)
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 med green pepper, chopped
  • 28 oz canned, diced tomatoes (the spicy peppers are good, too, for more flavor)
  • 2 tbsp canned tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 12 oz uncooked ziti pasta (you could probably substitute any noodle here, but ziti is a hearty noodle and can handle this hearty sauce)
  • 6 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 9 x 13 in. pan
  1. Position oven rack in center of the oven, preheat oven to 350
  2. Crumble sausage meat into large (LARGE) saucepan and brown over medium heat, stirring often (about 4 mins)
  3. Begin to cook pasta per package's instructions (this may be done a bit before or after your sauce- no worries! just move it to a cooler burner)
  4. Drain off any fat (using 96/4 sausage, you won't have much)
  5. Add onion & bell pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until softened (about 3 mins)
  6. Stir in canned tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper
  7. Bring to simmer, reduce heat, cook uncovered 5 min, stirring frequently
  8. Drain cooked pasta
  9. Combine the cooked pasta and the sauce you've just made
  10. Add in 1/2 of the cheese (3 oz)- stir it all together
  11. Spread evenly into 9 x 13 pan
  12. Top with remaining 3 oz of cheese
  13. Bake about 20 mins, until cheese is bubbling (Or, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 mins.  Remove foil.  Continue to cook for 5-7 more minutes uncovered.)


  1. Replies
    1. Suzette- I hope the recipe turned out well for you! It's so easy, and makes for great leftovers! Thank you for reading my recipe blog!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the recipes on Katherine in the Kitchen! Please keep stopping by for more recipes!