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A Warming Baked Pasta Supper

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It's the mix of sausage, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and ricotta in this ziti that make it a reader favorite.

On a blustery eveing, there are few dishes as comforting as a hearty, hot pasta. This oozing concoction of sausage, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, ricotta and ziti is a reader favorite. To balance out the rich pasta, this menu starts off with a bright, tangy arugula-fennel salad kissed with orange and lemon, and ends with spicy but light red-wine-poached pears.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 day or at least 3 hours ahead:

  • Poach the pears and let them cool in their poaching liquid.

90 minutes before dinner:

  • Heat the oven to 425°F.
  • Toast the pistachios
  • Toast and chop fennel seeds.
  • Make the salad dressing.
  • Reduce the pear poaching liquid to a syrup.

One hour before dinner:

  • Cook the ziti and its sauce; assemble it and pour into its baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the ziti with pecorino and put it in to bake.

30 minutes before dinner:

  • Slice the fennel and assemble the salad.
  • Toss the salad with dressing just before sitting down to dinner.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 5 oz. arugula (about 5 cups)
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 small bunch fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 orange
  • 2 ripe but slightly firm pears
  • 1 lemon

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 3/4 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 1/2 lb. mozzarella, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • Mild pecorino cheese (enough for 1 cup grated)
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream

Other Groceries

  • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 35-oz. can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 lb. dried ziti
  • 1/4 cup shelled hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. hazelnut oil
  • 2 whole star anise

Pantry Staples:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu


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