G. Love & my Special (Baked Ziti) Sauce

23 Oct

My baby’s got sauce.

No really – he does, I made it for him last Sunday….while dancing around the kitchen to G. Love’s version, obviously. (It may or may not have been on repeat. What..it gave me inspiration!)

See, last Friday we took our maiden voyage down to the beloved 9:30 Club, located in the U Street neighborhood of DC. A few weeks prior, I was surfing through its website for work and saw that one of our absolute favorites, G. Love & Special Sauce, were coming! I bought tickets right then and there, without even asking Matt. Psh, we’re married…I don’t have to consult him on anything anymore, right?

Right. (He was very happy with my decision. Good wife points!)

I’ve heard so many raves about the 9:30 Club from my coworkers – a small performance venue (stocked with five bars, nonetheless) that features all sorts of big names, small names and everything in between. I heard there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and once you experience a show in the intimate yet electric setting, you’ll never want to experience a live performance any other way.

Long story short – the venue instantly lived up to the expectations.

(HOWEVER…no food or drink allowed in a the door. So you can imagine my horror when the bouncer reached in my purse and snatched up my grandma-stash of granola bars. This is actually quite hard to talk about but…he threw them in the trash. I stood in disbelief for a few moments, until Matt pushed me forward, laughing as he said, “You’ll be okay. We can afford to buy more, I promise.” I’m still not over it.)

Matt and I claimed our spot at the bar on the main floor and watched as the space filled with people. The opening band, Apache Relay, was really good – by their last song, I felt like I had been a fan for awhile. (Matt also enjoyed the head-banging ways of the bearded guitar player…I don’t know how he walked straight after shaking our head around for four songs straight!)

Our spot at the bar was perfect for a while, but when G. Love himself stepped on the stage, I knew I had to get closer! Matt happily obliged to watch over my drink and my purse at the bar while I bumped, scooted and squeezed my way to the front of the crowd. (I’d like to note this was the first time I’d ever been successful at doing this without spilling someones drink, getting knocked over or giving up after hitting a wall of drunk mean girls.) I must have been extra determined from the beer I had before I decided to dash off into the masses.

Another long story short (I could write about five paragraphs on the concert, but I’m assuming you’re here for the food.), G. Love was ridiculous. With his smooth & cool blend of blues, hip-hop, soul and bluegrass, there wasn’t a still body in the house. (I for one know I was grooving like a hippie fool…when I came back to the bar to enjoy the show with Matt, he was highly amused at my super cool dance skills.) We had the best time, and our (G) love for G. Love all the more elevated to the next level…I have to admit that my new iPhone has been playing a pretty steady set of his albums since then. (Oh! Another note…I got the new iPhone 4s earlier that day. That was big news, but the bigger news is that I didn’t drop, lose it or even come close to scratching it at the concert! Seriously…that was huge win for AM vs. the world.)

Okay, so back to MY sauce.

On Sunday, I was all set to make a big ol’ pot of pasta fagioli. The weather is getting nice and crisp, so for me, that means endless pots of soup for the next few months. For Matt, that means endless pots of soup for the next few months…something that somehow doesn’t intrigue him. So, like a good wife (are we catching a trend here?) I decided that alongside my pasta fagioli, I would break out another pot (thank you wedding registry and loved ones…we have multiple pots & pans now! Woot woooot) and cook up some of my “special sauce.” But rather than just have pasta & sauce, I wanted to make a hearty-yet-healthy casserole that would keep Matt full for the rest of the week, while I enjoyed my minor soup addiction. Alas, I present to you:

AM.Love & Special (Baked Ziti) Sauce

  • pound of lean ground beef
  • splash of red wine
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • one medium onion, sliced thin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (tried to use a garlic press for this and somehow failed miserably. How is that possible?)
  • large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 box of whole wheat penne
  • 1 cup fat free or light ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 chub of fresh mozzarella (about 1/2 cup?), chopped into small pieces
  • parsley…to make it all look gourmet 🙂

Add the following to taste…you know we I-talians don’t measure these things:

  • salt & pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • basil
  • crushed red pepper
  • sugar
  • parmigiano reggiano
  • crushed red pepper
Prepare a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
In a sauté pan, add a swirl of EVOO over medium heat. Add ground beef and break up into pieces with a wooden spoon. Once it is browned a bit, add a splash of red wine. (When I was in Sicily with my family, my great aunt did this. Attempting to be a great Italian lady like her, I followed suit. However…I used $6 wine from Trader Joe’s. Pretty sure she used a higher quality wine, but on our budget, if it is under $10 but over $5, it’s quality!) Cook through and then set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil; add whole wheat penne. Cook until al dente; drain and set aside. (I personally don’t like to cook the pasta until the sauce is almost done, as dried out pasta that sticks together is the bain of all Minnuto women’s’ existance. Growing up, my Ma would immediately add sauce to the drained pasta to make sure it wouldn’t dry out. Therefore, I need to have some sauce ready..even if it isn’t seasoned to perfection…to have on hand.)
In a medium pot, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion. Saute for about two-three minutes, then and garlic. Cook down (or “sweat out,” as Mama Ro says), stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper. Once the onions & garlic are soft (about five-10 minutes…just keep watching/stirring to make sure they don’t burn), add can of crushed tomatoes. Here comes …add a few shakes of onion powder, garlic powder, basil, crushed red pepper (depending if you want to give it a lil’ kick), sugar and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese to taste. Keep tasting, keep adding, depending on how you sauc-ay sauc-ay you want your sauce.
Add beef to the sauce; stir well. Cook on low for ten minutes, stirring, tasting and adding more spices if needed.
Pour cooked penne into sauce. Add ricotta, stir well. Hold back all temptation to devour now and pour into the 9 x 13 pan. Spread evenly, then sprinkle frress mozzarella, more parmesan cheese and small dots of ricotta. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until heated through and cheese on top is nice and ooey-gooey.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley, a side of crusty Italian bread and “cold beveragessss.”


One Response to “G. Love & my Special (Baked Ziti) Sauce”

  1. Kim Izzo November 11, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Anne Marie, your post had me laughing out loud. I can totally picture your devastation when they took your granola bars. How rude! And, I do “dig” on that picture of the ziti. You have gotten much better at taking food pictures since our first attempt at the Ginn. It probably helps that the ziti was hot when you took the picture. 🙂 We miss you guys. Can’t wait to see you in December.

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