Few things are as sensorial as the smell of sauce wafting through grandma's house, and this baked ziti recipe will take you right there. Made with layers of homemade sauce, mozzarella cheese and silky noodles, this dish is perfect for holiday dinners with loved ones.
Not only is baked ziti the perfect meal to bring to potlucks, but it's also a great recipe to prepare ahead of time and heat up for a weeknight. Serve the meal with a side salad and some homemade bread for the complete Italian restaurant experience.
Once the sauce and ziti pasta are cooked, ladle a cup of tomato sauce onto the bottom of the dish and spread it evenly. Cover it with an even layer of pasta and then spread the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta.
Then dollop half of the cheese mixture and some mozzarella on top of that layer. Repeat the layers until the baking dish is full, then bake for 30 minutes. But, don't forget that the key to making a good ziti is expertly cooked pasta. Not sure how to pull that off? Here's a step-by-step guide for how to cook pasta perfectly everytime.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 28 ounces tomato puree
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage
- 1 pound ziti pasta1 pound ricotta
- 3/4 cups Parmesan and romano cheese mix
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound fresh Mozzarella, torn into small pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven and add onion, garlic and Italian sausage.
Saute the onion and garlic while the sausage browns, breaking it up with a spatula.
After the onions become translucent and the sausage is browned, add tomato paste and stir to combine.
Using your hands, crush the whole peeled tomatoes directly into the pot along with the juices from the can.
Pour in the tomato puree.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as directed on the packaging. But do not cook longer than al dente. It will continue to cook in the oven later.
When the pasta is done, ladle a few tablespoons of starchy pasta water into the tomato sauce and stir.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, cream, and Parmesan/romano cheeses.
Season the cheese mixture with salt and pepper.
When the tomato sauce is done, it's time to assemble the dish in a baking dish.
Mix 3 cups of tomato sauce with the drained pasta in a separate bowl.
Ladle about a cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of the dish and spread evenly.
Cover with an even layer of pasta.
Spread 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta.
Dollop half of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the torn mozzarella on top of that layer.
Repeat the layers.
Finish with one more layer of the rest of the pasta and sauce, followed by the remaining torn mozzarella. Be sure to get sauce in every crack and crevice, as well as along the sides of the dish.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow it to cook for a few minutes before serving.
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