A FUN & YUMMY ITALIAN DINNER - ZITI STUFATI

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One lazy Sunday morning a few years ago we stumbled upon an episode of Giada in Italy on the Food Network. We don’t typically watch cooking shows, but we’re suckers for all things Italy, so we found ourselves settling in to watch Giada make Ziti Stufati with her Aunt Raffy. Giada explains the recipe belongs to her great Aunt Raffy and that they’re making it to take to her Great Aunt’s house for dinner. It’s a fun episode with banter between aunt and niece regarding how much of this and how much of that to add as well as how much Great Aunt Raffy would disapprove of their impromptu additions. By the end of the episode our mouths were watering, so with nothing planned for the day we decided we would make it our day’s activity to make Ziti Stufati.

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The only problem was we didn’t have a dutch oven, but it was something I’d been thinking of buying for a while so it provided a good excuse to get one. The search for a reasonably priced but quality dutch oven was a bit of a wild goose chase. I’d previously seen some Le Creuset dutch ovens at Home Goods (where they are often discounted). So we went there first but found nothing; then to Tuesday Mornings and a few other discount stores to no avail. Finally, a brief internet search led us to Macy’s where this Martha Stewart Dutch Oven was on sale. I’ve been very happy with it and I love the color!

A few hours later we arrived back at home with our new dutch oven, ziti stufati ingredients, a fresh loaf of bread, and some other yummy items to make it a fun Italian dinner. We had a lot of fun making this recipe together — I’d never made meatballs before! It turned out delicious and my son now requests it as his birthday dinner.

A couple of notes:

If you watch the episode Giada says she’ll be eating the parmesan rind that she removes from the sauce for lunch. This is definitely part of the fun (and deliciousness!) of making this dish. As soon as we remove it we gather around to feast on the softened tomatoey parmesan. Heaven.

I’ve used a few different types of tomato puree because some stores don’t carry the Mutti brand, but I’ve found using the Mutti brand really makes a difference in how the dish turns out. If you can’t track it down at a store, I suggest ordering it online or trying to find a comparable brand. I have yet to find one that tastes as good.

If you’re anything like me, you might think the egg seems out of place in this recipe. They actually discuss the egg in the episode and the fact that they’ve asked Great Aunt Raffy why the egg is included. Her reply is something like “Because there’s an egg in the recipe.” It may seem strange, but it’s actually a yummy addition to the dish — don’t feel tempted to leave it out!