Thursday, August 2, 2012

{No Skillet} Baked Ziti & Catering 101

So last Saturday I helped my Aunt with my cousin's graduation party.  I made 1 full tray of eggplant rollatini, pulled pork, assorted roasted veggies, tex mex rice, and 5 full trays of baked ziti.  She cooked dishes like chicken, bacon mac and cheese, penne ala vodka etc.  So we definitely had a nice spread. 

I love cooking and my family -so what better way to tie it all in as to help cater a party.  Unfortunately because of the rain the turn out wasn't as many as expected, but we still had a lot of people come- maybe 100 including kids.  I really hope to take this catering business further because I had a lot of fun with it. 

It is definitely some sort of art to prepare what I did in a kitchen so small with one oven.  Oh, and did I mention I have never made eggplant rollatini before.  It came out really good!{Thank God!}  I took this challenge on full force and bought wayyyy too much food (thank god for returns) and spilled some food in my trunk- gross (thank god for carpet cleaner). But overall it went great.

I also misread my Aunt's message and made WAY too much ziti- so here's a quick and easy recipe for baked ziti- because if I can make 5 full trays in one night, you can make some for your family for dinner :)

Oh, also baked ziti is supposedly traditionally made without ricotta cheese- but who wouldn't want ricotta cheese!? This is also a non-meat version- if you wanted to add meat- you would have to use a skillet ;)  And of course this isn't one of my healthier meals- but you can use part skim ricotta and mozzarella, plus whole wheat pasta for a "lighter" version- maybe swap some pasta for some veggies.

(I usually use a 9x13 casserole dish with this recipe)
  • Olive oil
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon of dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese (I usually use part skim)
  • 1 lb of ziti (or you could use rigatoni or penne or any tubular pasta you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup or so of mozzarella cheese for the topping

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Get your pasta water on to boil.
  3. In a small sauce pan- saute your onion in about 2 tbs of olive oil on medium.  After they get soft about 5 to 7 minutes add your garlic and saute about 2 minutes. 
  4. Then add your tomatoes to onion and garlic.  Add your spices and stir to combine.  (I like to add a bit of water to the sauce to make it a bit thinner- but this a personal preference)
  5. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer- let simmer until your ready to assemble.
  6. When the pasta water is boiling, add your pasta and cook to al dente (because it will continue to cook in the oven)
  7. Get your casserole dish and add the sauce and ricotta cheese to it and mix to combine (I don't get crazy with mixing- it will all combine well when baking)
  8. When pasta is done add your pasta to the casserole dish and carefully toss the pasta (so no overflow) with the sauce and cheese.
  9. When that is done top the pasta with mozzarella cheese (If I have sometimes I like to use parmesean and mozzarella).  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Serve and enjoy! Suggestion: serve with salad. 

I also apologize for no picture :( As you can see after I made all this food, I was just happy I was able to finish it all in time. Yea, 18 of those bad boys.

If anyone in the Long Island, NYC area is interested contact me at

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