Sunday, September 9, 2018

Baked Ziti

This is a really simple but delicious baked ziti recipe.  Believe me when I say I've tried a lot of ziti recipes over the years and they've all been varying degrees of tasty, but this is our favorite for sure.  I'm always looking for new recipes, but laid my baked ziti quest to rest after I first made this recipe four years ago!  It's a bit unique in that all of the cheese (except for some mozzarella sprinkled on top) gets mixed in with the pasta.  This both saves time with layering and makes sure each noodle is very cheesy!  The nutmeg also gives it a really nice, subtle, slightly unexpected flavor.  The sauce recipe itself is quite solid and is a good, basic sauce to serve over spaghetti.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember where the recipe came from originally, but I do know I've changed it substantially.
If you want to add a few minutes of prep time and make it more hearty, you can saute a pound of ground beef or turkey to start with, then add a finely diced onion and two cloves minced garlic to the browning meat in place of the onion and garlic powders, then continue making the sauce as written.  
Quick Note: You can use any large, tube shaped pasta.  For some reason it's really hard to find ziti around here!  I've also started using mostly whole wheat pasta and finding whole wheat ziti is impossible.  The recipe photo shows it made with whole grain penne.
Baked Ziti
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
28 oz can whole fire roasted tomatoes, blended
6 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb ziti pasta
cheese mixture:
1 lb ricotta cheese
3 C mozzarella, divided
1/2 C grated parmesan (optional)
1 egg
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper 
1/2 tsp salt
Put all sauce ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, cover with a splatter screen, and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While sauce simmers, cook the ziti in salted water until just shy of al dente.  It will continue cooking in the oven and you don't want it to get too soft..  
While the pasta cooks, stir together ricotta, 1 1/2 C mozzarella, the egg, and seasonings.  Drain pasta and return to pot.  Stir in cheese mixture. 
Grease a 9 by 13 pan and spread half the pasta mixture in the pan.  Spread half the sauce on top.  Add remaining pasta, top with the rest of the sauce, then sprinkle the remaining cup of mozzarella on top. 
Bake ziti at 350 until bubbly and cheese is golden, about 45 minutes.
Yield:  8 servings

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