The Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks.
They will honor the best of the best of last year's movies. Of course this year, the academy has added the ever-so-controversial ten nominations (it used to be just five) for the "Best Picture" category. I don't have a major problem with this besides the fact that I can hardly think of ten movies I liked enough to even come close to receiving such an honor. The nominees this year are:
The Bind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney in "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth in "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman in "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker"
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Matt Damon in "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan in "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia"
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Penélope Cruz in "Nine"
Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
The Oscars are not only a time of year we honor the new movies that might someday become classics, but we also a time to honor the classics themselves. So let's make some classic food, shall we? Baked Ziti is a comfort food for anyone with an appetite for warm, meaty, flavorful, noodley, cheesiness. It is easy to make (the theme of this time of year) and very satisfying. I like to make a huge batch and save the rest in the freezer to last for a few more meals. I have made it a couple different ways in the past year, and it seems to me that baked ziti is really just something you need to adjust to your liking. I like a lot a lot of meat so I lean towards a pretty heavy amount. I also like the tomato sauce to really stand out (even though I was in a hurry this time and did not end up with a good sauce). Some people like ricotta cheese in their ziti, but I prefer to leave the ricotta to the lasagna. However, I think it would be nice in a vegetarian version (possibly with some mushrooms added as well). You an buy your favorite tomato sauce or make your own. I also added just a little bit of Italian sausage to the dish just for some added flavor. Zach suggested the dish did not need it, but I still like just a little bit of it. Here is how I made it, but this is something you should definitely tweak about to make your own:
1 lb ziti pasta, cooked al dente according to package*
1 lb ground beef
2 links spicy Italian sausage (optional), casings removed and chopped into small chunks
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced into slivers (about four slivers per clove)
3 C (about 24 oz) of flavorful tomato sauce
2 C shredded mozzarella (optional: sub one cup mozzarella for 1 C or 8 oz provolone cheese)
1 C shaved parmesan cheese
Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
In a large pan, cook the all the meat with the chopped onion and garlic until the meat is browned.
Add the tomato sauce to the meat and stir thoroughly.
Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese (use the provolone here if you have chosen to substitute it) and 1/2 C of the parmesan to the meat/tomato mixture.
Stir the mixture into the cooked ziti pasta and transfer to a large casserole dish.
Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese evenly over the top of the dish.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.
*I cannot explain why, but I much prefer actual ziti pasta which is chopped straight across on each end as opposed to penne pasta which is cut at a slant (even though I could not find the ziti pasta this time around). I also steer clear of the small ridges on the surface of the pasta. It is supposed to catch more of the sauce around it, but I find it has the opposite effect. I feel the sauce sticks to the flat surface much better.