Zitoni pasta is so much fun to eat! Foot long ziti tubes flop all over the place when they are eaten. Kids love this pasta because of the sounds that can be made with the long tube shape pasta.
Polpettine translates to little meat balls. Large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese are baked with this pasta, so this pasta entree has a way of filling up a tummy rather quickly.
Zitoni al forno con le polpettine originates in Napoli, Italy. This is a great southern Italian entree!
Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe:
This recipe makes about 4 or 5 portions of sauce!
Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add about 5 to 6 ounces of olive oil. (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.)
Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
Add 1/2 cup of finely minced onion.
Saute till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the onions brown.
Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
Add a 28 ounce can of good quality imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes.
Place a 28 ounce can of imported whole Italian plum tomatoes or San Marzano tomatoes that are packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.
Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes, till no big chunks remain.
Add the hand squeezed tomatoes and juices to the pot.
Add 4 pinches of oregano.
Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.
Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.
Heat the sauce and stir, till it starts to gently boil.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Leave the pot uncovered. (Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid, or the sauce will become stewed tomatoes!)
Slowly simmer the sauce and stir the sauce once every 5-7 minutes for 4 hours.
The sauce should be simmering gently and there should be very little bubbling on the surface. Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot back into the sauce too. That stuff is full of flavor!
After 4 hours, the flavors will meld and the tomato sauce will become a medium thin tomato sauce consistency. The excess tomato juices should be reduced into the sauce at this point. The olive oil should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or reheat the sauce to order.
Note: For a very smooth salsa di pomodoro, allow the sauce to cool, then run the sauce through a hand turned food mill into a container. Some people like a smooth Italian tomato sauce!
Polpettine (Small Meatballs):
Place 6 ounces of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of water soaked bread pith that is squeezed dry.
Add 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 2 pinches of oregano.
Add 4 cloves of minced garlic.
Add 1 pinch of basil.
Add 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
Mix the ingredients together.
Scoop cherry size portions of the meat mixture and set them on a plate.
Roll the little meat portions into tiny meatballs by hand.
Brush a small roasting pan with blended olive oil.
Bake the meatballs in a 350º oven, till they become lightly browned and fully cooked.
Set the polpettine aside.
Zitoni al forno e polpettine:
Boil a large pot of water over high heat.
Add 1 large portion of zitoni pasta.
Gently stir the zitoni occasionally with a pasta stick and try not to break the fragile long zitoni tubes.
Boil the zitoni till it becomes al dente.
Cool the pasta under cold running water. (Never shock a pasta with ice water! Shocking pasta causes excessive starching.)
Place 3 ounces of salsa di pomodoro on the bottom of a casserole dish or an oven proof large pasta bowl.
Place 1 third of the cooked zitoni pasta on the sauce.
Spoon several dollops of ricotta cheese on the pasta. (Several 1 ounce size dollops is good. A total of 6 to 7 ounces of ricotta is a good amount.)
Place the rest of the zitoni pasta on top of the ricotta.
Spoon enough salsa di pomodoro over the pasta, to coat the pasta with flavor. (About 6 ounces)
Place some large thick pieces of mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta. (1 to 2 ounce thick pieces of mozzerella is good. A total amount of 5 to 7 ounces is good.)
Place the polpettine (little meatballs) on top of the pasta.
Spoon a few dabs of salsa di pomodoro over the pasta.
Place the pasta bowl in a 325 degree oven.
Bake till the cheese becomes melted and the pasta becomes hot.
Note: Do not brown the pasta and cheese or the flavor will become bitter! The cheese should only be soft and melted.
Set the pasta baking dish on a serving plate.
Allow the pasta to cool for almost 2 minutes, so it becomes a safe serving temperature.
Sprinkle some chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.
Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
This is a great hearty filling pasta recipe! The tiny meatballs, a great tomato sauce and gooey strings of mozzarella cheese tangle with the long zitoni pasta in a messy fun way. Be sure to wear a pasta bib when eating zitoni al forno e polpettine! Delicious! Ciao Baby! ... Shawna