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Giant, Humongous, Gigantic, Monstrous, Huge, and YUM-O Pretzels

5/30/10: Baked Ziti with Giant Bavarian Pretzels

Meal details: For the main course I made a type of Italian American pasta casserole called ziti. Its name is derived from the typical pasta shape that it calls for. As a side, I made homemade soft pretzels.

Defining moments: First time making pretzels! Memories of watching my older brother Matt make pretzels came to mind when I was forming them. They are a fun side to make and they don't take that much time. It is also my first time making ziti.

Recipe sources: The ziti dish* comes from American Test Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking shows. The pretzel recipe came from the October 2009 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray.

What I learned: After pulling all the ingredients together to make the ziti it seemed to me that my family's old favorite, Macaroni Italiano isn't too far from being called ziti. Macaroni Italiano is an old family favorite and I am still not sure where we got the recipe. I think it was formed on the whim; something like our homemade spaghetti sauce. With casseroles and spaghetti sauces, it doesn't seem like a recipe is needed. I mean the little-bit-of-this-and-a-little-bit-of-that method works out most of the time!

If you ever have watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen (ATK) you would know that each of their recipes has a secret or twist. Such as their grilled corn on the cob. . . Instead of grilling it in husks, they place the husked ears into a brine beforehand. With the baked ziti, they omitted the traditional ricotta cheese for cottage cheese. Why? They said that the Test Kitchen staff thought the ricotta created a grainy texture. They also used two sauces: a tomato based one and an alfredo sauce. And last but not least, they cubed their mozzarella into 1/4" cubes, mixed it into the sauce, and sprinkled them on top as well. This technique leads to mozzarella in every bite.

The pretzels weren't as hard to form as I thought! They do require numerous steps (such as rolling out the dough into a long log, dipping them in a baking soda and water mixture, forming them in their traditional shapes, applying egg wash and salt, etc.), but their fast baking time makes up for this. And once you are done with the first pretzel you sort of get into the rhythm of things.

Any modifications? Yes, I made some modifications to the ziti recipe because of lack of ingredients.

  • Instead of ziti noodles, I used elbow macaroni
  • Granulated garlic instead of fresh
  • Dried basil instead of fresh

Other than those listed above, I followed the recipe exactly.

How did it taste? The ziti recipe was good but to tell you the truth, I think I like out Macaroni Italiano more. :D Our recipe includes things like bell peppers, ground beef, loads more mozzarella, and onions. . . Ingredients that I love! It was a good dish, nonetheless, and I really did like the creaminess that was achieved by using the cottage cheese. Something to keep in mind when making a lasagna.

And let us not forget the pretzels! They were WONDERFUL! They were big, soft, and had a crispy exterior. I may have gone too far with the sprinkling of salt (especially since I served these with ziti), so I'll remember to hold back next time.

How about a 2nd time? I don't think I'll pull out this ziti recipe again but I will definitely keep the pretzel bookmarked. I want to try them with mustard!






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