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November 8, 2021

Sweet Italian sausage, fresh fennel and basil pesto turn Molly's cheesy baked pasta dish into a hearty meal!
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Cookbook author, food blogger and Midwest transplant Molly Yeh embraces her country life and makes dishes inspired by her Jewish and Chinese heritage — with a taste of the Midwest, too.

Welcome to Food Network, where learning to cook is as simple as clicking play! Grab your apron and get ready to get cookin' with some of the best chefs around the world. We'll give you a behind-the-scenes look at the best shows, take you inside the favorite restaurant and be your resource in the kitchen to make sure every meal is a 10/10!

Meaty Ziti with Pesto Dollop
Level: Easy
Total: 1 hr 20 min
Active: 45 min
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Meaty Ziti:

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons (26 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound (453 grams) sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium bulb fennel, quartered, cored and thinly sliced (reserve 1/2 cup tender fronds for the pesto)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
One 28-ounce/794-gram can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
One 8-ounce/227-gram can tomato sauce (reserve the can)
1 pound (453 grams) ziti
2 cups (224 grams) low-moisture whole milk shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup (40 grams) grated Parmesan
One 8-ounce/226-gram ball fresh mozzarella, halved
Freshly ground black pepper


2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh fennel fronds
1/4 cup (30 grams) blanched almonds, toasted
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons (10 grams) grated Parmesan, plus more for finishing
1/3 cup (71 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling


For the meaty ziti: Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.

Heat a large braiser (about 5 quarts) over medium heat and add the olive oil. Crumble in the sausage. Cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, sliced fennel and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes. Stir to incorporate and allow the red pepper flakes to toast, about 1 minute. Add the wine. Increase the heat to reduce by half, about 2 minutes.

Add both cans of tomatoes. Add 1 cup water to the smaller reserved can and add the tomato-water to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and flavorful, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the ziti to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Toss to coat. Add almost all the shredded mozzarella (saving some for the top) and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Tear half the fresh mozzarella into smaller pieces and add to the pasta: fold the cheeses into the pasta. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, then dot with torn pieces of the remaining fresh mozzarella.

Bake, uncovered, until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden and crusty, 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pesto.

For the pesto: Combine the basil, parsley, fennel fronds, almonds, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to make a coarse paste. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream to make a smooth pesto.

the pesto on top of the hot pasta. Season with black pepper and finish with grated Parmesan.

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Molly Yeh's Meaty Ziti with Pesto Dollop ​| Girl Meets Farm | Food Network

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