Ramadan is a special holiday for Muslims all over the world. Those who are able to spend daylight hours fasting and engaged in increased worship, which is the primary purpose of the month.
But when the sun sets, there are 30 days of some of the best eating of the year. Whether at home with family, invited to neighbors and friends homes, or visiting one of the many large community meals, the food is fantastic.
Here in the United States, the diverse American Muslim population means that break-fast meals (known as iftar) can have a cornucopia of food from people of native-born (i.e. African American, Latinx American, Native American, European American) and immigrant Muslim backgrounds.
One staple dish in my family is baked ziti. I make a big pan to feed my husband and kids fasting for a couple of days. I will also make a couple of pans to bring to my local masjid (mosque) for a community meal. I always bring home empty pans.
- 2 boxes of ziti
- 1 large jar of spaghetti sauce (Thought I made it from scratch? Nah!)
- 2lbs ground beef
- 48 oz ricotta cheese
- 8 oz of parmesan cheese
- 16 oz mozzarella cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 large onion
- garlic powder
Fill a pasta pot with water. Salt the water and put it on the stove to boil. Chop the onion and combine it with the ground beef. Oil a saucepan and brown ground beef and onions. When the meat is brown, add spaghetti sauce and simmer.
While cooking the noodles, grate the mozzarella and parmesan. Put the mozzarella in a bowl and combine with half of the parmesan, garlic powder and oregano to taste. Mix the ingredients.
In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, egg, the rest of the parmesan, a dash of nutmeg, and oregano and garlic powder to taste. Mix the ingredients.
Drain cooked noodles and layer them in the pan with the sauce and ricotta cheese. Top with mozzarella mixture. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the top is slightly brown.
I am not Italian or of Italian descent, so don’t thrash me for the recipe. It’s what works for me, and everyone likes it. If it’s authentic you want, do a Google search.
I like making this during Ramadan. It does help me and my husband maintain our New Yorker roots, which has a huge Italian food influence. It also grounds me culturally during a time when there is a lot of different foods that I like, but don’t consider comfort food stemming from my childhood.
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