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Werner Herzog describes Baked Ziti

ziti baked cheese mushroom spinach italian werner herzog
“It is a convergence of elements, a convergence that speaks to the essence of human existence.”

It is a convergence of elements, a convergence that speaks to the essence of human existence. The pasta, tubes of delicate resilience, their cooked bodies surrendering to the al dente perfection. They embody the fragility of life, each piece is a vessel awaiting its inevitable consumption.

But it is the cheese that captures my gaze, a symphony of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan. The mozzarella, in its melted state, stretches and transforms, an ever-changing entity mirroring the fluidity of our own identities. It is a reminder that we, too, are pliable creatures, molded and shaped by the circumstances that envelop us.

Yet, within the cheese lies an inherent contradiction. Its malleability is bound by limits, the boundaries of its form reminding us of the constraints that define our human condition. We are both adaptable and confined, a paradox that exists within the melted strands of cheese atop the ziti.

And then there is the tomato sauce, a vibrant concoction simmered to perfection. Its rich aroma fills the air, carrying with it the essence of life itself. The tangy and robust flavors speak of transience, reminding us that even the most tantalizing experiences are ephemeral. The sauce is a testament to the passage of time, its simmering depths a metaphor for the ticking seconds that shape our mortal existence.

In this convergence of pasta, cheese, and sauce, baked ziti offers a glimpse into the human experience. It is a dish that embodies the fleeting nature of life, the delicate balance between resilience and constraint, and the bittersweet temporality that colors our existence. Within its humble layers, I find a canvas for contemplation, inviting us to reflect on the profound truths hidden within the ordinary.

1 pound of ziti pasta
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound of cremini mushrooms, sliced 
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (28-oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
1 (10-oz). package frozen spinach, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon  crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until very al dente, Drain and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Do not add any oil. Saute the mushrooms until they release their liquid and start to turn golden. Keep stirring to prevent burning. When most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and continue sauteing until the mushrooms are crispy. Remove from the heat and set aside.  

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft about 5 minutes. 

Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and basil and cook 2 minutes more, until slightly darkened. Add crushed tomatoes, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer, reduce heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and flavors have melded 15 to 20 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, stir to combine ricotta, spinach, and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, combine sauce and pasta, then fold in the ricotta mixture. Spread about half of the pasta mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella and Parmesan over the pasta. Top with the rest of the pasta mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Cover with foil and bake until cheese is bubbling about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and place it back into the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.


Posted in bushwick, casserole, cheese, comfort food, cooking, existential, food, movie, moviefood, movies, mushroom, pasta, recipe, vegetarian, werner herzog

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