So here we are. Mid-December. Holiday season.

And I can’t help but ask myself how that is possible. It seems like Christmas always sneaks up on me. It’s quiet and stealthy. One minute it’s eighty degrees and sunny and the next you walk into your lobby and the doorman is putting up a Christmas tree and you think, “Huh, you don’t see evergreens in the middle of August much, now do you?”

I think the problem is that, for the past four Christmases, at least, I have spent the days up until Christmas Eve studying for and taking finals.

And let me tell you, staring at a biochemistry textbook for hours at a time does not exactly put you in the right frame of mind to go wassailing or do any other activity that requires any sort of Christmas cheer.

So what would typically happen is that I would be there, up in Boston, cooped up in my room. Going stir crazy. Reaching that point of insanity where drawing chemical structures or signal transduction pathways on my wall with a sharpie was beginning to seem more and more like a good idea.

And all of a sudden it would be December 23rd and I would be on a plane flying into Laguardia, not quite sure where, when, or how my ticket had been purchased but awfully thankful that it had. (Maybe back around Thanksgiving when my life still seemed put together? When I actually had the wherewithall to be able to tell you what day of the week it was?)

And then, even more suddenly than all that, Christmas would be over. And thus another holiday season would have passed in which I had not enjoyed even one leisurely glass of hot apple cider or sat around one fireplace sipping marshmallow-laden hot chocolate.
A tragedy if ever I heard one.

But this year?

This year is going to be different.

I have a dream, you see. A dream that is filled with Christmas cookies. Ice skating (okay that one may have to be put on hold until this groin muscle thing finishes working itself out…I’m off the crutch but still limping slightly…progress – yes, cured – no). Decked halls. Boughs of holly. Gay apparel. And other such festive things.

Maybe I don’t really need any figgy pudding. Not sure why, because I love figs, but figgy pudding just doesn’t sound that appealing.

And then, of course, there are the Christmas parties. No season would be complete without a good party. The first of which that I attended was a potluck put together by FACES (Female Association of Clinicians, Educators, and Scientists) which is basically a group that was formed for the female MD/PhD students here at Cornell to try to promote gender equality and women’s rights within our program. I, being the overachiever that I am, volunteered to bring a dessert (Cranberry Bliss Bars), some bread (I made dinner rolls from a pound of the challah dough), and an entree.

The entree, of course, being this delicious baked ziti. Because nothing says Christmas like the red and green of kale and tomato sauce in a cheesy baked pasta dish.

Wintry Baked Ziti
Serves a lot, probably 8-10
1 lb ziti
12 oz sweet Italian sausage
1 lb kale, leaves torn off the stalks
4 cloves garlic
1 onion
3 carrots, diced into small pieces
1 tbsp oregano
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb part-skim ricotta
1 cup part-skim mozzarella

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set up a pot of water for the pasta.

2. Remove the sausage from its casings and cook until brown and crumbly. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

3. Lower the heat to medium low and add in the minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Add in the carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in the oregano, sausage, and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta for 2/3 of the time stated on the box. Add in the kale during the last minute. Drain.

5. Stir together the pasta, ricotta, and half of the sauce and pour into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Pour the rest of the sauce of the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is browned.

I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted this week by one of my favorite bloggers, the lovely Reeni of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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48 Responses to Wintry Baked Ziti

  1. Sounds yummy and very comforting on a freezing day like today!

  2. SE(Denufood) says:

    hey..I completely agree with you about exams being in the holiday or festive season..baked ziti looks very delicious..

  3. Toni says:

    You crack me up. I hope you get to enjoy this holiday season!

  4. Katerina says:

    This looks delicious, I love that you used Kale! I so love it in pastas and with sausage too obviously!

  5. mmm, I love sausage pasta! I may have to make this for dinner (sans cheese :))

  6. SnoWhite says:

    that looks wonderful. I see this in or 2010 menu plan 🙂

  7. You’re killing me with that pasta! It looks so good. I think if I had to prepare for a biochemistry exam I’d make a special treat like this too. Good luck on the exam!

  8. What a great dish! I am sure people really enjoyed it. I hope you have a great holiday season.

  9. i know. so glad to be done with finals. hi, my nickname for awhile was BRUISER. sad, right?
    hahha costco is bomb. especially the MASS amounts of food there. i like to run around looking in people’s carts. like….my neighbor who had a 50# bag of SW sugar and 16 pack of cans of tuna. HMmmmm.

  10. party like a rock star… cooking sure does add to the holiday, doesn’t just sneak up on you, it happens almost every day with something festive!

  11. Ola Joanne,
    a few hours ago ,hopped by my dash board to see what ya comes up with this time round-ur writin and cooking and missed ya…
    n a few hours later here u r…
    Hope u can skip,hop and jump along soon…
    Ur words have me mentally singing…’deck the halls w boughs of holly…tra la la la la la la la la….
    another stori that everything makes me break into a xmas jingle if my ipod and little speakers arent already are…
    And i love ur greens with some red and yeah creamy white too…
    u covered ’em all xmas colors…

  12. Ruth Daniels says:

    What a fantastic dish to share for the last Presto Pasta Night of 2009. I can’t wait to see what you’ll be sharing in 2010.

    In the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas filled with joyous gatherings with family and friends. And may 2010 bring all you wish for.

  13. hope all of your christmas dreams come true love the baked ziti with the kale

  14. girlichef says:

    Oh, this sounds so yummy!! I need to stop stressing and try to enjoy the holiday, too…need parties. And alcohol. I’m sure that would help…. 😉

    …oh and p.s….I don’t know if you saw my post announcing the winners, but you were one of them!!

  15. This ziti looks so creamy and yummy! I like that you added all a whole variety of veggies. It must be so good!

  16. Bob says:

    Looks fantastic! I’ve never had kale in baked ziti, I totally need to try that.

  17. Muneeba says:

    Great idea adding kale to the baked ziti! Makes it heartier, and can serve it to my guests with less guilt ‘coz it’s healthier 🙂

  18. Elra says:

    Nothing really comfort me then a bowl of baked pasta.

  19. burpandslurp says:

    Wait…you’re flying WHERE?! Joanne! Will you be back by the 29th? I need to see you! I demand to see you!!!

  20. Michelle says:

    Baked Ziti sounds so good! It’s so cold here, more like mid January then mid December, everything is under about 3″ of ice.

  21. This is such an attractive dish. The minute cheese is seeping through, you have a winner.

    I have added spinach but I have been wondering what would happen, if I added broccoli. I have never seen it. I should let you make it and then if it is good, I could give it a shot.

    You are an amazing cook. Can you imagine your potential for your middle years?

  22. teresa says:

    that is some fantastic looking ziti! I love it!

  23. I know how you feel – I was wondering this morning if I was going to get to enjoy the season – while working on a 7 page paper that has held my attention all day, every day this week. But the end is in sight! I wish I had some of your delicious and comforting ziti waiting for me! Thanks for sending it over!

  24. Amy says:

    My sister is in town visiting and as we speak she is standing over my shoulder saying, “Mmm. That looks good. What blog is this?” Indeed. And soon she will also know how well you write 😉

  25. Chef Aimee says:

    I love pasta, I really love festive pasta, and I really really love this blog!

  26. Kim says:

    I bet your FACES group welcomed you with open arms: ) Hot cheesy pasta, fresh baked rolls and dessert is just the right food for a get together with the girls. Glad to hear that you are finally getting a chance to enjoy the holidays!!

  27. Sun says:

    Hi.. nice posts.. I like ur blog.. Hope u will visit my blog too..

  28. sheba says:

    hey..i am so thrilled to have found ur space and i have an award for you…please visit my blog to collect it…

  29. Donna-FFW says:

    NO season is complete without a party season. Liucky friends you have..the pasta looks fanfreaking tastic.

  30. Barbara says:

    I never liked exams right before Christmas either!
    If your FACES group doesn’t swoon over your ziti dish, I will be amazed. The more cheese, the better.
    ENJOY this holiday season!

  31. Ben says:

    Oh Christmas sneaks up on everybody! I was thinking I had a lot of time to finish my shopping and here I am, one week left with a big list still. The baked ziti looks so good and comforting, perfect food for cold weather.

  32. Love the wintery flavours, so nice and hearty for these cold days.

  33. Faith says:

    Lol, I’m not quite sure about figgy pudding either! 😉 I love how you use kale in this…new kale recipes are always welcome here!

  34. Jen says:

    OMG!!! I died and went to ziti heaven!!! yummm! one of my favs!

  35. Mari says:

    WOW that looks amazing love! when am I getting an invite lol

  36. chrystad72 says:

    Christmas eve is always a super busy. I really hope that this year is everything that you hope for though. Relax and enjoy a nice Christmas party girl! That pasta dish look out of this world fabulous! Yum! what a healthy comforting dish to eat. Thanks so much for sharing that!! Have a wonderful day!

  37. Graziana says:

    wow with this pasta and the sweet bars from the previous post… what a party!

  38. What a great idea. I love kale but never thought of adding it to a baked pasta.

  39. Filling, savory, cheesy, perfect!

  40. Megan says:

    You overachiever, you – bringing 3 items to the potluck?!

    I wonder how the holidays sneak up so quickly, it seems like Thanksgiving was yesterday. And just think, Christmas is NEXT WEEK!

  41. Cristie says:

    This looks so wonderful, and I’m starving! Great changes in the traditional ziti.

  42. You never cease to amaze me! Seriously, you are such an amazing Woman!

    No, you definitely don’t need any figgy pudding – who does? And Gay apparel? No, I think your apparel is just perfect as is – unless there is something you aren’t telling us about 😉

    You are a an Italian cooking goddess! I can just see a cookbook in the future written by Doctor Joanne the Marathon runner!

    I’m sorry to hear you are still on the crutches. Please be careful and take good care of yourself. Don’t be a bad patient!


  43. theUngourmet says:

    I love the kale in here! Love it!

    I hope your Christmas is full of cheer! I’ve always wondered what gay apparel looks like. Fancy dresses? Top hats? 😀

  44. Debinhawaii says:

    Looks delicious and I love all that kale in there. I know what I am going to with the next bunch from my CSA box.

  45. Katy ~ says:

    For the first time I had kale in a tomato sauce and it was a delicious surprise. I know I would really like it in this wonderful cheesy baked ziti dish. YUM YUM YUM I would not be a good sharer if I saw this on the buffet table.

    Hope all your Christmas dreams come true. Hugs.

  46. Lea Ann says:

    I agree, Christmas is sneaky! This Ziti looks fabulous and creamy and scrumptious. I’d love to spend Christmas in NYC. One of these days.

  47. Andreas says:

    Lovely dish. I hope your dream comes true.

    If you also have a lab course in biochemistry, you could make some “snow flakes” by welding together eight single-use tips for Eppendorf pipettes to help along the Christmas spirit.
    I’m just saying. 😉

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