In this pan is an equal amount of butter and good olive oil. Some garlic thinly sliced. In goes two cans of San Marzano tomatoes and one jar of passata or three cups of tomato puree. We break up a little bit of our Italian San Marzanos and we let this simmer for at least 20 minutes for the tomatoes to start to break down. Always season this with salt and fresh basil. Our water’s up to a full rolling boil. We season the water when it’s doing this so that the salt dissolves instantly into the boiling water.

Then we add our pasta and we leave it alone five minutes.

  • Give it a little (stirring sound) if you like,
  • just at the very beginning to get it going, five minutes later, drain ‘er off.
  •  It’s going to finish cooking in the oven of course. For the big balls;
  • I love that you agree with me on how fun that is.

Okay so, equal amounts of beef and pork. I literally coat it like fresh, fallen snow with Parmigiano Reggiano, a fat amount of cheese, okay? Then we do the same thing with bread crumbs. Then we moisten the bread crumbs with some milk.


Salt and pepper. We also add red pepper. Fennel. And oregano. Whenever we use dried herbs, we crush ’em in the palm of our hand to kind of wake them up. And then I add also, a good three or four turns of the bowl very, very slowly with good olive oil. That helps the meatballs brown in the oven.

I prefer roasting meatballs than frying them in oil for several reasons. It’s a little healthier. It’s a whole lot easier. You dirty one is less pan. And the meatballs tend to hold their shape better, okay? Score the meat so that you know out of each quarter of the mix

I need to yield four meatballs or five meatballs and so on and so on. So you end up with meatballs that are all the same shape and size. You can also just form the mixture together and get an appropriate size scoop, an ice cream scoop. And put it in hot water, keep dipping it in the hot water every few meatballs and just keep rolling, and you’ll know that every single one is basically the same.

For this, just think small baseballs. And they don’t have to all be the same, ’cause we’re going to break ’em up. That’s the fun of it. Oh, we forgot the eggs! I forgot the egg.I’m going to put the meat back in the bowl and add my eggs. I add eggs to this, of course, to make the meatballs nice and moist. For every pound of pasta, you need one deep nine by thirteen baking dish. This is one large container of ricotta cheese, 28 ounces. Here’s our big ball.  So now comes the fun part. To the base of the ricotta cheese, we’re going to add in another fat dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano. A couple of eggs to give some stability and moisture to the baked pasta.

(eggs cracking)

Mixity, mixity.

A little handful of mozz and provolone Save a lot for the top. At the bottom of your pan, you’re going to put some plain tomato basil. We’re also going to add tomato basil to the middle. And save some for the top. Every time we have these huge firefighter cook-offs, we try and say to them gently, before they come, “Make comfort food.” People love lasagna, baked pasta, blah, blah. These guys all come in and they make like, salmon en route and you know, this and that, all these delicate, beautiful things. When really when we think about firefighter food and when we think about winter, we think about comfort food. Like ziti!


So, by the way, I could have won any of my firefighter cook-offs with this sucker. So we put the rest of the sauce right down on top. And then, what do we do? We top it with the rest of the mozzarella and provolone. The broken meatball ziti-Sagna should rest a few minutes. Once it rests a little bit and settles up, you top it with a little bit of parsley. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. A little confetti.

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