Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

I love baked ziti but I really only feel like eating it once every few years.

The craving hit recently and I realized that while I’ve made other dishes that are far more complicated, I’d never actually made baked ziti. Up until that point, the only ziti I’d had was either prepared by my mom or something I had at a restaurant. I decided to change that and finagled a baked ziti recipe based on what I’d seen my mom put in baked ziti along with a few of my own touches added in.

I think ziti tastes better the next day so feel free to make it a day or two ahead of when you plan to eat it. You can reheat the entire pan but I find it easier to cut squares and just reheat what you plan to eat. You can also setup the ziti a few days ahead, store it in the fridge, and bake it right before it’s ready to be served.

1lb penne or ziti
1 chopped onion
1 tbsp minced cloves of garlic
2 (28oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
Adobo (or salt)
Black pepper
Sugar (optional)
1lb ricotta
1lb mozzarella (shredded or cut into small cubes)

Add the pasta to a pot (I’d recommend a 6 qt stock pot) of boiling water and cook until al dente. I like my pasta somewhere between al dente and mushy; it shouldn’t mush if squeezed between your fingers but also shouldn’t be tough if bitten. However, because the pasta will cook further in the oven, boiling it until it’s just al dente ensures that it doesn’t become too mushy. Strain the pasta into a colander and set aside.

Place the now empty pot back on the stove and heat the pot over a medium flame to dry out any remaining liquid. Once dry, add a bit of oil to the pot followed by the onions and garlic and stir occasionally so they brown without burning. Next add the crushed tomatoes and stir in the parmesan, red pepper flakes, oregano, and cumin. Lower the flame and allow the sauce to come to a gentle simmer. Add Adobo (or salt) and black pepper to taste. If the sauce is too acidic add a bit of sugar to balance out the acidity. Turn off the fire and stir the pasta into the sauce taking care to evenly coat all of the pasta.

Place a layer of the pasta in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan or casserole dish. Next use a spoon or spatula to evenly spread a layer of ricotta. Finally, sprinkle a layer of the mozzarella over the ricotta. Repeat the layers until you get to the top of the pan; aim to have mozzarella as the top layer. Cover and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the cheese starts to bubble. I like the edges to be a bit crisp so I remove the cover for about the last ten minutes of baking.

Baked ziti goes great with a nice simple side salad and warm fresh French or Italian bread.

Approximately 8 – 12 servings



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