I recently found this relatively unknown pasta at a nearby Italian enoteca and was intrigued by its shape. It reminded me of bucatini, that long pasta with a hole in the middle, though the hole is even larger in zitone.
I'd never come across it when living in northern Italy and discovered that it is THE pasta for feasts and holidays (such as Ferragosto) in Naples where even on the hottest day of summer (mid-August) there will always be a plate of zitoni on the table.
In Campania, Puglia and other southern Italian regions, it is traditionally broken by hand before cooking, a ritual followed by the women and children in the family.
“It is said that on Sunday mornings, the noise of women breaking ziti by hand can be heard in the alleys of Naples.”
If you can't find zitone, use penne or rigatoni.
The Ragu Bolognese (meat sauce), inspired by a recipe of New York celebrity chef Mario Batali, can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated, and will keep for a month frozen. You can use beef mince, if preferred.
- Prep Time : 30-40 minutes
- Cook Time : 2h 15 min
- Yield : 4 -6
- onion - 1, finely chopped
- celery stalks - 2, finely chopped
- carrot - 1, finely chopped
- garlic - 2 -3 cloves, crushed
- extra virgin olive oil - 2 -3 tablespoons
- pancetta or bacon - 60g, very finely chopped (or pulsed in food processor)
- pork and veal mince - 500g (not lean)
- tomato paste - 1/3 cup (60g)
- milk - 1/2 cup (125ml)
- dry white wine - 1/2 cup (125ml)
- water - 1/2 cup (125ml)
- dried thyme - 1/4 teaspoon
- salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- Zitone - 300g
- Cheats Sauce
- creamed cottage cheese or fresh ricotta, well-drained - 300g
- Greek yoghurt - 200g
- organic or free-range eggs - 2
- cooking salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- parmesan - 25g, finely grated
- ground nutmeg - 1/8 teaspoon
- freshly ground black pepper
- cayenne - a pinch
- mixed grated cheeses (parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar) - 200g, for layering
Lightly oil an ovenproof dish (approx 20cm x 20cm).
Cook onions, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil in heavy pan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add ground pancetta or bacon, pork and veal mince and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste, milk, wine, water and thyme and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Makes about 4 cups.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt and cook the zitone until "al dente" - be careful not to overcook. Drain well.
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan/160C.
Cheat's Sauce Layer:
In a medium bowl, whisk together cottage cheese (or ricotta) eggs, salt, parmesan , black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Chill filling until ready to assemble.
Spoon 1/3 of the 'ragu' into the dish, followed by a layer of the cooked zitone and then a layer of cheat's sauce (you might need to trim the zitone, depending on size of the dish). Top with 1/3 of the mixed grated cheeses. Keep going - you should get 2 layers of zitone.
Top the final layer with lots of grated mixed cheese and another grind of pepper. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until golden and bubbly.
Tip: I added a thin layer (about 125g) of finely chopped spinach (well-squeezed to remove excess water) on top of the second layer of the Ragu.
For more info: https://www.the-pasta-project.com/ziti-and-zitoni-pasta/