Timing is Everything

Do you remember being little and comparing bedtimes with all your friends?  Sous Chef Lauren barely had a bedtime past third grade, and I was the one whose parents made sure the lights were off by 8:00 p.m.  8:30 at the latest.  (Full House was on at 8:00, after all.)

In high school I remember waiting for winter and spring breaks to roll around because I was allowed to be out with my friends later than usual.

The problem was no matter how late I stayed up, I was awake by 8:00 every morning.

I’ve always been a morning person.

lemon ziti

This crazy idea hit me earlier this year and I felt like an idiot for spending almost 29 years of my life figuring it out.  The idea is simple: If you’re tired, go to sleep.


It’s a liberating premise, I know.  I’m not sure why I was still holding on to the idea that it’s cool to go to bed as late as possible well into my adult years.  Yes, it was cool when you were 8.  But after that, who cares?  Isn’t sleep something we all wish we got more of?

lemon ziti

That’s how I feel about mealtimes too. (Also this picture keeps flipping sideways no matter what I do, and I really want to show you this, and I cannot seem to fix it.  #bloggerproblems)

There are people from all over the map who will tell you it’s not really dinner if you ate it before 7:00, or 8:00, or 9:00 (I’m looking at you Barcelona).  Growing up we ate at 6:30 on the nose each night.  When I found out a friend from college ate at 5:00 I thought he was crazy.

What’s the big deal?

When you’re hungry, eat.

Giada’s lemon ziti makes for a glorious late lunch.  But maybe it was just a really early dinner.  I tweaked it based on years of mac and cheese experience, and loved the way it turned out–creamy without being heavy at all.  Lemon will do that for you.

To make it, you will need:

For the casserole:

  • 1 pound ziti, or other short-cut pasta, prepared according to package directions
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 3 1/2 C milk (she says whole, I used 2%)
  • zest of two lemons
  • 3/4 C grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C fresh chopped basil
  • 2 T fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 2 C shredded mozzarella

For the topping:

  • 2/3 C breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan
  • olive oil, for drizzling (I used a basil infused oil here–fun!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium saucepan, melt butter.  Stir flour in, and cook on low heat for about 2 minutes, just to cook the flour a bit.  Pour in milk, and add lemon zest.  Cook over medium heat, stirring pretty constantly, till thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.  This should take between 5 and 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, and stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Add pasta to a 9 x 13 casserole dish, and pour in lemon juice, basil, and thyme.  Give everything a good stir so the flavors are distributed throughout the dish.  Pour cream sauce over pasta, and let settle into nooks and crannies.  Depending on the thickness of your sauce, you may need to help this along by giving it a stir.

Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling up to the surface.

2 thoughts on “Timing is Everything

  1. This sounds absolutely delicious. Oh, and it’s nice that you have those memories. You actually got up at 5:30 for the first six little years of your life. And for a week in the fall, when the time changed, you got up at 4:30. I am still napping at will in an attempt to recover. It’s a good thing you’re so cute.

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