Baked Ziti & A Tree Trimming Party?

Apparently Tree Trimming parties are all the rage this season. Though there are a few left in cold, stumped as to what a tree trimming exactly is. No, a tree trimming is not a brazilian waxing or the actual cutting of the tree’s branches. A tree trimming is the decorating of a Christmas tree.

Though I do not celebrate Christmas, I gleefully await this time every year so that I can spend some quality time with some of my old Renegade co-workers. Ironically only one of them still actually works at Renegade, but those are minor details. Being the token Jew at every tree trimming (keep in mind this was only my 2nd one) I try to spread some of my own holiday cheer by either bringing Chanukah paraphernalia or by placing a blue ornament at the top of the tree. Hebrews re-pre-sent! I later dropped and broke an ornament but hey, it’s the thought that counts. Of course my kind friends make me feel at home by playing famous Chanukah songs like Southpark’s “The Dreidel Song” and Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song”. So many fond memories of past Chanukah’s singing those songs. Ohhh, that’s what those gentiles think (dare I snicker).

But all jokes a side, a tree trimming is a wonderful reason to have a party and celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season, Jew or Gentile alike. And an even better reason to consume massive quantities of deliciously cheap red wine. Thanks to leftovers from the Nielsen Potluck Holiday Party, I was able to provide some extra goodies like store bought 5 layer dip, tortilla chips, and Entemann’s chocolate covered donuts. But the culinary highlight of the night, was Neil’s Baked Ziti. Though the Baked Ziti Recipe was taken from the Food Network Test Kitchens, it was a great one and especially made for beginner cooks like Neil. Being the carnivore Neil is, he decided to include some sausage and ground beef, yum, yum! And being the nice guy that he is, made a special dairy-free version for our lactose friend Rody. Below you’ll find an easy to follow recipe that you should try out for your next tree trimming or holiday affair.




1 pound dried ziti pasta
Kosher salt
5 cups Tomato Sauce
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 oz Ricotta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sweet and or spicy Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously.
2. While the pasta boils, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage and beef until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes more.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
5. When the large pot of water reaches a boil, cook the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.
6. Toss the cooked pasta with the marinara sauce, ricotta, meat mixture, half the Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and pepper flakes.
7. Transfer the pasta to an oiled 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
8. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Ziti on Foodista