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Every so often, my menu is determined not by choice but by one or more expiration dates. (Alas, I remember when the dates that influenced my cooking were of a more romantic variety.) But getting back to the present: Looking in the fridge, I found some mozzarella leftover from pizza making last weekend and some ricotta that I had purchased for eggplant involuting about a week ago. Both were soon approaching their best used by date and there was about 8 ounces of each—too much to throw out without feeling guilty.

Growing up Italian, the two typical ways of putting leftovers to work were frittatas or pasta. Last night, I opted for the latter and decided to make some baked ziti.

I preheated the oven to 350°F .

Next, I made a 20-minute marinara sauce with a small clove of garlic, olive oil, crushed tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. I minced the garlic and added it to the pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, until it was aromatic but had not taken on any color. Next, I added about a teaspoon of chopped basil and sautéed that with the garlic for about 30 seconds and then added a 16 ounce can of chopped tomatoes. I brought this to a simmer over medium heat and let the sauce simmer uncovered over low for about 15 minutes.

As the sauce was cooking, I added an egg yolk to the ricotta, together with some Pecorino-Romano (1/4 cup), chopped fresh basil (1 tablespoon) and a little salt and pepper. I beat this mixture with a spoon until it was creamy.

Meanwhile, I cooked some left over whole-wheat penne, about 8 ounces, that had also been around a tad too long, to about a minute before the al-dente stage.

When the pasta was done, I transferred it to the ricotta mixture and stirred it until well coated.

I then placed a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a small baking dish. I followed this with a layer of half of the pasta and ricotta mixture. Over this layer, I spread about half of the sauce and about 3 ounces of mozzarella which I pulled into chunks from the ball. Over the top of this layer, I grated some pecorino. I repeated this process to form a second layer ending with the mozzarella, grated cheese, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

I placed this in a 350°F oven and baked for 30 minutes. After removing it from the over, I let it rest tented with foil for 10 minutes before serving.

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Keeping with the left-over theme, our wine was a half bottle of Chianti.

Would enjoy hearing how my readers use up their about-to-expire ingredients.

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