Last week, I was in New York City and, naturally, we made a stop at one of our favorite restaurants in Little Italy.  If you've ever visited the area of Manhattan known as "Little Italy", you know it's basically a couple of blocks of Mulberry Street that are jam-packed with delicious restaurants and Italian bakeries.  The food's festive, fun and surprisinly affordable.

On this most recent trip, we visited an old favorite.  We first ate at Paesano in July of 1998 and we have been popping in occasionally ever since.  The atmosphere is enchanting and the food is, well, sensational.  By the way, I had a delicious Chicken Parmagiana and Kevin ordered his go-to- Fettuccine Alfredo.

Chad Benefield/WBKR
Chad Benefield/WBKR
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Today, in our What's Cookin'? segment, Brooklyn Maple is joining us from Kentucky Legend and she's serving up a recipe that marries Kentucky and Italy.  It literally and figuratively showcases the best of both worlds. Here's how you make Baked Ziti with Spinach and Kentucky Legend Ham.

SAUCY BAKED ZITI WITH SPINACH AND HAM

1 lb ziti

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz baby spinach

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 cups chopped Kentucky Legend Quarter Sliced Ham, Black Forest

1 onion, diced

2 1/2 cups puréed strained tomatoes (passata)

3/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat; cook spinach, garlic, salt and pepper for about 2 minutes or until wilted. Transfer to plate.

3. Add remaining oil to skillet set over medium heat; cook ham and diced onion for 5 to 8 minutes or until starting to brown. Stir in tomatoes and roasted red peppers; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 5 minutes. Stir spinach into sauce.

4. Toss pasta, reserved cooking liquid and basil with sauce until pasta is well coated. Stir in mozzarella. Transfer to greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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What's Cookin'? is sponsored weekly by Kentucky Legend. To see and try more Kentucky Legend-inspired recipes, CLICK HERE!

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