When the cold weather rolls in, there's nothing better than putting your oven to work: just put your dish in, close the door and let it do the work while you curl up on the couch. Anyone who loved The Sopranos will know all about baked ziti, the cheesy, layered Italian-American spin on pasta al forno. Here's a recipe to satisfy your inner wise guy.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
800g (2 cans) diced tomato
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp dried oregano
1 cup roasted capsicum, thinly sliced
200g mild cacciatore salami, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
750g ziti or penne pasta
300g ricotta cheese
300g buffalo mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
100g grated parmesan cheese
1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for about 20 minutes until translucent and lightly caramelised.
2. Add the diced tomato, salt, pepper and oregano and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir through the capsicum, olives and 150g of the salami. Simmer for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Heat your oven to 180C. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for about three minutes less than the packet directions. It should be cooked, but very firm and still a little crunchy in the centre. Rinse with cold water, drain and return to the pot. Stir through a third of the pasta sauce.
4. Place half the coated pasta into a large baking dish. Cover with another third of the pasta sauce and dollop over the ricotta cheese. Cover with the remaining pasta and another layer of the remaining pasta sauce. Cover with the mozzarella, scatter with the parmesan and place the reserved salami on top. Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the pasta cooked. Grind over a little more black pepper and serve.