IHCC: You Are Such A Meatball!

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're cookin' meatballs!  That's right.  Meatballs, Giada style.  Click the button below to join the fun.
IHCC
Can you believe I've never had baked ziti?  There's about 10 million (give or take) recipes for it out there.  And people seem to love it.  Especially for feeding massive crushes of people.

Giada's Baked Ziti W/ Meatballs intrigued me because of...yep...you guessed it.  The meatballs.  It isn't too often that I've seen meatballs in baked ziti.  Though considering I've never eaten the dish, that's not surprising, right? 

Notes:
* used my mom's meatball recipe, added the Romano & parsley from Giada's

* used jarred marinara (yeah, there goes my New Year's not-a-resolution of eating fewer processed foods) which I seasoned to taste with garlic and red pepper flakes

* seasoned the ricotta with dried basil, oregano, and more red pepper flakes b/c some of the foodnetwork reviewers thought this was bland

The verdict: we all liked this a lot.  Especially the crusty cheesy top
...oh yeah, like that
My only "complaint" is that this makes about 100 pounds of food (give or take--I'm bad at estimating).  The recipe states that it serves 4-6.  Who are these people?!  I'd say 8-10 easily.  It's very, very filling.  Definitely best for a crowd or large family.  We actually got tired of eating it!  
And if that's the worst thing I can say about the recipe...not too shabby.

Also linking to Presto Pasta Nights # 199hosted by Ruth @ Once Upon a Feast

Baked Ziti w/ Meatballs

from Giada De Laurentiis
also at FoodNetwork.com
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup grated Romano
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef
All-purpose flour, for dredging

1 pound ziti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups tomato sauce (used jarred marinara seasoned with garlic & red pepper flakes)
3 cups whole milk ricotta (seasoned with dried basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.


In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.


In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown. Remove meatballs to a plate.


In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti and meatballs and toss gently.


In a large greased baking dish, pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Dot with the butter. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.