Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baked Ziti

This is the best baked ziti dish I've ever had. It's so good that the act of just typing this recipe up has made add the ingredients to this weeks shopping list. Not only is this Baked Ziti like a super tasty easier lasagna, but this recipe will feed 6-8 people making it perfect for when you have guests over. This is also a dish that refrigerates/freezes really well. (Since there's only three of us I only baked half of the pasta one night and baked the second half a few days later.)



By adding a little bit of sugar to the sauce you end up with a really amazing marinara. I actually made a smaller batch of the sauce to go with some pizza rolls (I plan on posting a recipe eventually) and it was great. The chunks of mozzarella are also really amazing in this dish. I couldn't find fresh basil at the store (I know, what the hell right?) but dried worked out just fine. And if you don't like cottage cheese still give a try. I hate cottage cheese with a fiery passion and yet I never would have guessed there was cottage cheese in this dish if I hadn't made it myself. The Cook's Illustrated people are pretty adamant that ricotta cheese isn't as good in this dish and so far they haven't led me astray. (Plus cottage cheese is about half the price of ricotta ao what do you got to loose?)

I know some of you, and by "some" I mean the one random person who might stumble upon this, may look at the picture of this dish and be utterly unconvinced that this dish is as good as I say it is. I don't blame you (I can't believe this is the best photo I got). But I promise that is you give it a shot you will be happy with the results.

Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 lb 1% fat cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb ziti pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F Whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 Tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl, transfer mixture to Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat.

4. Transfer pasta mixture to 13 x 9 inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tablespoons basil and serve.

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