Mama Mia! Cheesy Barbecue Beef Baked Ziti!

This weekend I prepared a meal for a family who just welcomed another blessing into the world.  They’re a beautifully blended family with love overflowing from every corner of their house.  Because there are more in the family than the average family I cook for, I knew I needed something bigger, but still comforting since it’s *cold* this weekend!  I also knew I wanted to make something a little more traditional and still add a little flair.  I settled on this Cheesy Barbecue Beef Casserole from my Betty Crocker Bridal Edition cookbook.  You can find the recipe here!

What I love about this cookbook is that it has blend of traditional American comfort food with more exotic recipes. All the recipes are accessible and don’t take a great deal of effort.  It is one in my normal rotation.  It gives me my fix of spice and fun even when I’m a little short on time.

I paired the ziti with roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  When you add roasted garlic to mashed potatoes it adds a depth of flavor you wouldn’t get with just adding butter (always use real butter by the way.  Not margarine.  You’ll be more satisfied with less of the real deal.).  By roasting the garlic beforehand, you remove the sharpness and bite that you get with fresh plus you amp up the natural sweetness.  You’re left with something distinctively mellow and earthy.  You also won’t knock someone over with garlic breath.   Tip:  I’ve read in a few articles that roasted garlic is gentler on a nursing baby’s tummy than fresh.

The easy version for roasted garlic: using a sharp/serrated knife, cut off 1/4-1/2 inch off the tip of a head of garlic.  Place on a piece of foil, drizzle with oil, and season with salt & pepper (lemon pepper is great here!).  Bake at 350° for 30-45min and the garlic should squeeze right out.  The more time consuming way:  I prefer to peel a few cloves at a time instead so I don’t have a whole head of roasted garlic to worry about using.  I roast as above.  I then folded in the roasted garlic and oil with freshly mashed potatoes.  Roasted garlic would also make an excellent addition to pastas, beef, and roasted/grilled vegetables.

To make life easier, Sur La Table has a neat and affordable Chef’n Twist’n Peel Garlic Peeler.  I buy two or three large heads of garlic at a time, so this Copper Garlic Keeper from World Market keeps garlic fresh longer.  Also, there are tons of garlic roasters on Amazon to save waste from using countless foil sheets to roast your garlic.  Some of them are even made to be used on the grill as well, so you can add a little smokey flavor to enhance your roasted garlic!

For dessert, I included some of my chocolate chip-pecan cookies. This meal wasn’t entirely “healthy”, but it was so good.  I made a smaller version for me and the Mr and we both went back for seconds!

What are some memorable dishes you’ve made for others in your life?  Let me know in the comments below!

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