SERVES 6 - 8
Pugliesi love their baked macaroni casseroles (timballi) and this one is no exception. There are many versions of the dish from this region. It is standard fare for Christmas or other special occasions. Mezzi ziti are a long, hollow type of dried pasta that needs to be broken in half before cooking. If they are unavailable use bucatini, a thick, hollow spaghetti. This recipe is usually made in some type of terra cotta dish but any heavy-duty casserole dish will work.
PORK SAUSAGE RAGU SAUCE
1 tablespoon Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 pound ground pork sausage
6 cups canned plum tomatoes, pureed
1/2 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
6 or 7 fresh basil leaves
Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan; stir in the onion and cook until it is slightly brown. Stir in the sausage and cook until it is browned. Combine the tomatoes with the wine and stir into sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil. Set aside.
FOR THE MEATBALLS
1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
2 ounces grated Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for frying
1 pound buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut into bits (Or use fior di latte mozzarella.)
1 pound mezzi ziti or bucatini, broken into thirds
Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs together in a bowl except the olive oil, mozzarella cheese, and mezzi ziti.
With your hands, make tiny meatballs the size of marbles. Pour a thin layer of olive oil in a sauté pan and fry the meatballs in batches. Or bake the meatballs on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a preheated 350F oven for 12 minutes.
Transfer the meatballs to a large bowl and mix them with 1 cup of the ragu sauce. Set aside.
Cook the mezzi ziti according to the package directions. They should remain just a bit firmer because they will finish cooking in the oven. Drain them and transfer them to a bowl. Toss them with 1 cup of the sauce and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Spread a thin layer of the ragu sauce in a heavy-duty ovenware dish. Spread 1/3 of the mezzi ziti over the sauce. Make a second layer with half of the meatballs mixed with half of the cheese. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the top of the cheese. Repeat with another layer of 1/3 of the ziti and the other half of the meatballs and cheese. Spread the remaining mezzi ziti over the last layer and top with the rest of the sauce.
Bake covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 5 minutes longer. The top should be very crispy.
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