To Taste: Baked Toni

I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.

Fat Rigatoni

While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.

Baked Toni

Baked Toni

  • Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
  • Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
  • Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
  • Garlic – (1) T, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Dried Basil – (1) T
  • Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
  • S&P – to taste
  • Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
  • Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
  • Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
  • Grated Parmesan – to taste
  • Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
  • Olive Oil – as needed
  1. Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
  2. Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
  3. Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
  5. Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
  8. Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
  9. Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  10. Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
  12. Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.
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To Taste: Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

Dre’s main request for Friday’s dinner was Mac & Cheese WITH BACON to accompany my Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozz Stuffed Chicken Breasts. On a shopping trip last week, I picked up the most adorable red casserole dish and this was the perfect opportunity to christen it. I needed to refresh myself on Mac & Cheese basics and Alton Brown seemed like my go-to man. I forgot how easily you can turn a basic rue, some milk, onion, & cheese (and bacon, of course) into the most comforting of foods. Mmmm, Mac & Cheese!

Shredded Mozz, Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, & Velveeta

I put Dre in charge of finishing up the Mac & Cheese. He crumbled bacon and tossed it into the macaroni & melty cheese mixture. The jumbo macaroni were perfectly filled up with the bacon & gooey cheesiness. He gets half the credit on this cooking venture for that move!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

No Baked Mac & Cheese is complete without a crunchy crust and why not have it add to the cheesiness! Dre crushed up some Cheez-Its, tossed with melted butter, and sprinkled on top. It added a crunchy texture to the creamiest, yummiest Mac & Cheese I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself! And how cute is that casserole dish?!

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese w/ a Cheez-It crust

Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese

adapted from Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

  • Macaroni – (1) lb, cooked al dente
    • Farfalle, Orchiette, Spirals & Shells all work well, too
  • Butter – (3) T + (2) T
  • Flour – (3) T
  • Milk – (3) cups
  • Whole Grain Mustard – (1) T
  • Paprika – (2) tsp
  • Bay Leaf – (1)
  • White Onion – (1/2) med onion, chopped
  • Shredded Cheeses – (4) cups or more
    • I used (2) cups Mild Cheddar, (2) cups Mozzarella, & (1) cup of Smoked Gouda
  • Velveeta – (8) oz, cubed
  • Smoked Bacon – (4-5) slices, cooked & chopped (optional, I guess…)
  • Cheez-Its – (1.5) cups, crushed
    • Next time, Goldfish!
  1. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Melt (3) T of butter in a heavy pot on Med and add flour. Stir for about 5 min until it turns a light caramel brown, watching closely.
  4. Add Milk, Mustard, Paprika, Bay Leaf, Onion, & S&P and stir. Bring to a simmer on Med for about 5 min. Remove Bay Leaf.
  5. Immediately add the cheese mixture to the pasta in a large bowl or your stock pot and coat. The bacon crumbles can go in now, too.
  6. Pour mixture into a large, greased baking dish or casserole.
  7. Crush (1.5) cups of Cheez-Its in a sealed plastic baggie and then toss with (2) T melted Butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over Mac & Cheese.
  8. Bake for about 30-40 min until bubbling. Remove and let it sit for (5) min before eating.