Traditionally, Baked Ziti is an Italian casserole dish, cooked with tomato sauce and cheese. After searching my pantry, I discovered I did not have any Ziti, nor Penne pasta, both used interchangeably in this classic recipe. Because Ziti and Penne are tubular pastas, why couldn’t I use elbow macaroni, of which I had plenty of? This dish turned out to be a “use up what is in the fridge” dish, which us home cooks – LOVE!
Legend notes upon being served a dish of macaroni, an early Italian sovereign exclaimed, “Ma caroni!” Which means “how very dear.” This semolina and water based pasta does not usually contain eggs and therefore,
are all considered macaroni pastas and could be used in my recipe below.
This recipe is what my family calls a JoAnn Concoction. I did not measure any of the ingredients. Adjust to your family’s size. Below renders enough for a 4 quart casserole dish, serving 6 adults.
Heat a large, non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once oil is shimmering, add chopped onions. Cook onions for approximately 5-6 minutes, add garlic and chopped banana peppers. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes. I place a paper towel on a plate and remove onion mixture from frying pan, allowing it to drain on paper towel. Sit to the side.
Return meat to skillet, along with onion mixture and add tomato sauce, thoroughly mixing together. Heat until sauce is slightly boiling. Remove from heat.
Prepare another layer of ingredients in the same manner, except do not apply basil leaves. Cheese should be the top most layer.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375º for 25 minutes.
Sauce should be bubbly; remove from oven and allow to cool. Garnish with basil strips. Serve.