Sunday, November 14, 2010

Zitoni al forno con le polpettine

Zitoni pasta is so much fun!  Foot long ziti tubes.  Kids love this pasta because of the sounds that can be made with the pasta tube shape.  Polpettine translates to little meat balls.  Large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese are baked with this pasta.  This recipe originates in Napoli, Italy.  This is a great southern Italian entree!  
     Polpettine Recipe:  Mix about 6 ounces of ground beef with a small handful of water soaked bread pith.
     Add a small handful of bread crumbs.
     Add a raw egg.
     Add a small handful of grated parmesan cheese.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a couple pinches of oregano.
     Add a 5 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add a pinch each of basil and chopped Italian parsley.  
     Scoop cherry size pieces of the meat mixture and set them on a plate.  
     Roll the little meat portions into tiny meatballs.  
     Bake the meatballs in a 350 degree oven till they are lightly browned. 
     Salsa Pomodoro Recipe:  
     Sizzle 8 cloves of chopped garlic and a handful of fine chopped onions in a good amount of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pot.  (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.)  Boil some zitoni pasta in a large pot till the pasta is cooked al dente.  

     Add a sprinkle of crushed, dried red pepper.

     When the onions turn clear, add equal amounts of good quality canned imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes and hand squeezed canned imported whole Italian plum tomatoes in their own juices.  (28 ounce cans is what I used for this recipe.  When hand squeezing tomatoes, pour the can into a mixing bowl and squeeze till no big chunks remain)  

     Add a few generous pinches of oregano.

     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.

     Add 1 small bunch of chopped fresh basil.  

     Pour a glass of dry Italian red wine or French Cabernet into the sauce.  

     Heat the sauce till it starts to bubble and then turn the heat to medium low.  (Never cover the pot of an Italian tomato sauce!)  

     Slow simmer the sauce and stir once every 5-7 minutes for 4 hours.  

     The sauce should be simmering gently so that there is very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  

     After 4 hours, the flavors have melded and the tomato sauce has a true body.  The excess tomato huices should be "tightened" into the sauce at this point.   The olive oil will be well combined with the tomatoes, because of the regular stirring. 


     Try not to break the long noodles.  

     Cool the pasta under cold running water.  (Never shock a pasta with ice water!  Shocking pasta causes excessive starching.)  

     Spoon some salsa pomodoro on the bottom of a casserole dish or an oven proof large bowl.  

     Place some of the cooked zitoni pasta on the sauce.  

     Spoon a few dollops of ricotta cheese on the pasta.  

     Lay the rest of the zitoni pasta on top of the ricotta.  

     Spoon some salsa pomodoro over the pasta.  

     Place the polpettine (little meatballs) on top of the pasta.  

     Place some large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta.  

     Spoon a few more dabs of salsa pomodoro on the pasta.  

     Place the pasta in a 325 degree oven.  

     Bake till the cheese has melted and the pasta is hot.  

     Don't brown the pasta and cheese or the flavor will become bitter!  

     Set the pasta baking dish on a serving plate.  

     Sprinkle some chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.  

     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.  

     No kidding, this is a great pasta recipe!  The tiny meatballs, a great tomato sauce and gooey strings of mozzarella cheese tangle with the long zitoni pasta in a messy, wonderful fun way!  Wear a pasta bib when dining on this pasta.  This is a great southern Italian, Napoli pasta.  Delicious!  Ciao Baby! ...   Shawna  

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