It’s rare for me to make baked pasta; we generally eat a little lighter fare. But now and then, we’re in the mood for something savoury. Usually, I would follow the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for this Italian baked ziti, but I knew I could make a version of my own, and I was so tickled I gave it a whirl.
I wanted to kick the cheese up a notch (or ten), and it paid off. Three kinds of cheese and heavy cream blended in ooey-gooey perfection is just what a weekend needs. Plus, I had a little extra time on my hands today, so I decided to make a more proper sauce as the base rather than jarred sauce for this baked ziti.
Baked ZitiPrint Recipe
- ¼ cup of good olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in juice
- 2-3 dashes of red pepper flakes
- 15-ounce tub of good ricotta
- ½ cup of heavy cream
- ½ cup of grated Parmesan
- 1 pound bag of dry ziti pasta
- 1 pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into pieces
- Parsley and grated Parmesan to garnish if chosen
Base Sauce Instructions
- Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
- Add the finely chopped yellow onion and pressed or minced garlic. Top with a couple cranks of freshly cracked salt and pepper.
- Add the meat (or don’t, it’s yummy with or without).
- Cook until your onion is translucent and the meat is cooked for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Hopefully, you’ve already crushed your tomatoes with the flat of your knife. Add your crushed tomatoes and all of their sauce/juice and stir completely.
- Season again with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees as the sauce cooks.
- Combine the 15 ounces of ricotta, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- It’s perfection if you cook the pasta just south of al dente. We want it undercooked slightly since it will bake in the oven more.
- Ladle 1 cup of pasta water into a measuring cup, then strain the ziti and rinse with cool water. Set aside until the sauce is ready.
- Once your base sauce is done, stir in the 1 cup of pasta water you just reserved.
- Place those yummy noodles in a large bowl and add 2 cups of the sauce. Stir it up to coat the pasta evenly.
- Spoon sauce on the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish.
- Layer ziti, sauce and mozzarella in thirds. With two layers of ricotta.
- Scatter 1/3 of the mozzarella pieces.
- Layer 1/3 of the pasta.
- Dollop the other half of the ricotta mixture.
- Scatter 1/3 of the mozzarella.
- Add the remaining 1/3 of noodles.
- Spread the last third of the sauce.
- Artfully scatter the remaining 1/3 of mozzarella.
- Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until the edges are golden and bubbling.